Objective: The dipeptide aspartame (N-L-alpha-aspartyl-Lphenylalanine, 1-methyl ester; alpha-APM) is one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of repeated administration of aspartame in the working memory version of Morris water maze test, on oxidative stress and brain monoamines in brain of mice.
Materials and methods: Aspartame (0.625, 1.875 or 5.625 mg/kg) was administered once daily subcutaneously for 2 weeks and mice were examined four times a week for their ability to locate a submerged plate. Malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione (GSH), nitric oxide levels (the concentrations of nitrite/nitrate) and glucose were determined in brain.
Results: Only at the highest dose of 5.625 mg/kg, did aspartame significantly impaired water maze performance. The mean time taken to find the escape platform (latency) over 2 weeks was significantly delayed by aspartame 5.625 mg/kg, compared with the saline-treated control group. Significant differences occurred only on the first trial to find the escape platform. Significant increase in brain MDA by 16.5% and nitric oxide by 16.2% and a decrease in GSH by 25.1% and glucose by 22.5% occurred after treatment with aspartame at 1.875 mg/kg. Aspartame administered at 5.625 mg/kg significantly increased brain MDA by 43.8%, nitric oxide by 18.6% and decreased GSH by 32.7% and glucose by 25.8%. Aspartame caused dose-dependent inhibition of brain serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.
Conclusions: These findings suggest impaired memory performance and increased brain oxidative stress by repeated aspartame administration. The impaired memory performance is likely to involve increased oxidative stress as well as decreased brain glucose availability.