Aspartame has been heavily scrutinized in health news over the past decade. A huge debate around the safety of this sweetener has created almost constant friction between two opposing camps: those who say aspartame is harmful; and those who say the artificial sweetener is safe.
In the safe camp are some pretty heavy hitters, including the FDA, which first approved aspartame way back in 1974. Since then, aspartame has been found safe for human consumption in over 90 countries. It would seem that the debate around aspartame is all but over.
However, studies continue to find links between aspartame consumption and health complaints, bolstering the arguments of those who say aspartame is harmful to human health.
Recently, a research team based at the Mahatma Ghandi University in India conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the effect of long-term intake of aspartame on the liver. For this animal trial, 18 adult male rats were randomly divided into three groups. The first group was given aspartame dissolved in water; the second group was given a higher dose of the sweetener; and the members of a third group acted as controls and were given just water.
The researchers found that the rats that had received the larger dose of aspartame in their drinking water showed reduced activity of glutathione (which plays a major role in protecting against oxidative stress). Further examination revealed white blood cell infiltration in the aspartame-treated rats. The researchers concluded that long-term consumption of aspartame leads to cell injury in the liver and alterations in liver antioxidant status.
In another recent clinical trial, this time conducted at the Burgundy University in Dijon, France, researchers linked aspartame consumption to fibromyalgia and chronic forearm pain.
A 50-year-old woman had been suffering from widespread pain and fatigue for more than 10 years, leading to the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. During a vacation in a foreign country, she stopped suffering from painful symptoms since she didn’t have the same aspartame intake as back home. All of the symptoms reappeared in the days following her return when she reintroduced aspartame into her daily diet. When aspartame was excluded from her diet, the fibromyalgia symptoms disappeared once again.
A second patient, a 43-year-old man, had a three-year history of forearm, wrist, hand and cervical pain with various unsuccessful treatments. The researchers discovered that he had been consuming aspartame for three years. The removal of aspartame from his diet was followed by a complete regression of pain, without recurrence. The research team concluded that these patients’ chronic pain was due to the ingestion of aspartame.
Whatever the final word is on aspartame consumption, here’s some health advice: avoid the potential risks to your nutritional health by using these natural sweeteners instead: