Revisiting the Safety of Aspartame

Nutr Rev. 2017 Sep 1;75(9):718-730. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nux035.

Abstract

Aspartame is a synthetic dipeptide artificial sweetener, frequently used in foods, medications, and beverages, notably carbonated and powdered soft drinks. Since 1981, when aspartame was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, researchers have debated both its recommended safe dosage (40 mg/kg/d) and its general safety to organ systems. This review examines papers published between 2000 and 2016 on both the safe dosage and higher-than-recommended dosages and presents a concise synthesis of current trends. Data on the safe aspartame dosage are controversial, and the literature suggests there are potential side effects associated with aspartame consumption. Since aspartame consumption is on the rise, the safety of this sweetener should be revisited. Most of the literature available on the safety of aspartame is included in this review. Safety studies are based primarily on animal models, as data from human studies are limited. The existing animal studies and the limited human studies suggest that aspartame and its metabolites, whether consumed in quantities significantly higher than the recommended safe dosage or within recommended safe levels, may disrupt the oxidant/antioxidant balance, induce oxidative stress, and damage cell membrane integrity, potentially affecting a variety of cells and tissues and causing a deregulation of cellular function, ultimately leading to systemic inflammation.

Keywords: aspartame; aspartic acid; methanol; phenylalanine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspartame / administration & dosage*
  • Aspartame / pharmacokinetics
  • Aspartame / toxicity*
  • Blood Cells / drug effects
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Carbonated Beverages / analysis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fibrin / metabolism
  • Food Safety
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners / administration & dosage*
  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners / toxicity*
  • Observational Studies as Topic

Substances

  • Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Fibrin
  • Aspartame