Aspartame is a synthetically prepared sweetener that is 200 times sweeter compared to sucrose. This artificial sweetener is used in several foods as well as products such as candy, gum, diet soda and vitamins. It is basically a odourless and white crystalline molecule.
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Way back in 1965, scientists discovered aspartame as a unique sweetener. It received approval to enter the United States market in 1974. However, the authorization for marketing aspartame was suspended some moths later as studies undertaken to examine whether this artificial sweetener could be noxious to the brain or its use could lead to brain cancer was not done in a proper manner. After fresh assessment of the previous studies on aspartame and examining a new set of data, this artificial sweetener was eventually approved for use in solid foods in 1981 and in soft drinks in 1983. Eventually, in 1996, aspartame received the authorization for use as a general sweetener.
It has been found that soon after consuming aspartame, it disintegrates into three different chemical substances - aspartic acid, methanol and phenylalanine. While aspartic acid and phenylalanine are amino acids, methanol, which is also known as "wood alcohol", present in aspartame can prove to be dangerous when consumed.
As discussed above, phenylalanine is a type of amino acid which may prove to be toxic when taken in elevated doses. However, when present in whole food products, phenylalanine is usually considered to be safe. Nevertheless, when phenylalanine is bound to other compounds chemically, as in the case of aspartame, this amino acid is absorbed into the bloodstream almost immediately instead of being taken up slowly through digestion.
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As phenylalanine has the ability to traverse through the blood/brain barrier and work in the form of an excite-toxin when it is taken up by the bloodstream very promptly, it may have the potential to get into conflict with a variety of neuronal processes. Consuming a single diet soda can raise the phenylalanine levels in the brain sharply, thereby resulting in a decrease of the serotonin levels. One study has shown that concentration of phenylalanine was found to be higher in people suffering from sepsis, HIV, cancer and also people who were enduring trauma.
On the other hand, aspartic acid is considered to be a non-essential amino acid. In other words, the human body does not need to intake this amino acid as it is capable of making aspartic acid. Generally, aspartic acid (also known as aspartate) has a vital role in the functioning of the nervous as well as neuroendocrine systems.
It is advisable that one should stay away from foods and products containing aspartame because of the concern over the potential adverse effects of the compound on newborns, children, adults, adolescents, lactating women, obese people, and people with diabetes as well as those enduring phenylketornuris or PKU when aspartame breaks down into other compounds.
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Some people have complained of blurred vision, eye pain and dry eyes allegedly after consuming aspartame. Actually, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States have discovered a link between ingesting aspartame and eye problems, which include poor vision. This has been established by many controlled studies.
As mentioned earlier, aspartame comprises aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. It is claimed that methanol in aspartame has the potential to become toxic for the retina as well as the optic nerve, which, in turn, leads to several types of eye problems. In fact, when foods and beverages containing aspartame are stored for a prolonged period or they are exposed to high temperatures, the components in aspartame breaks down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol and they may be toxic for your eyes.
While people with diabetes generally use artificial sweeteners as an alternative to sugar, there is a lot of controversy over the use of aspartame and most people are of the view that it is harmful for such people to consume this particular artificial sweetener. According to findings of a number of studies, consumption of aspartame may enhance insulin sensitivity. The findings of a research by American Diabetes Association has raised concerns that people suffering from diabetes who eat meals containing aspartame prior to any workout may witness a decline in their glucose levels.
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The study by the American Diabetes Association suggests that artificial sweeteners have an impact on the response of our body to sugar (glucose). In other words, a diet containing elevated concentration of synthetic sweeteners can have an impact on diabetes risk. This is true even if the artificial sweetener does not contain any calorie from sugar. Owing to such findings, several diabetes specialists are of the view that aspartame is possibly not a safe substitute for sugar. They also suggest that people suffering from diabetes should avoid using aspartame at all cost.
Nearly all people who often suffer from headaches and migraines usually have triggers and several of these triggers are things that they have in their diet. For instance, studies have confirmed the presence of aspartame in chocolate, various common drinks and foods, cheese and red wine. These studies also identify that aspartame has the potential to activate migraines.
Like alcohol and caffeine, you do not need to consume much aspartame to get headaches and migraines often. This is the main reason why many physicians suggest that you reduce taking too much diet foods and drink. If you are suffering from any kind of headache regularly, it is advisable that you stay away from aspartame. This may prove to be helpful in preventing such headaches. For example, foods those results in low blood pressure episode occurrences soon after you consume them (such as diet soda) have been associated with migraines. As mentioned earlier, such foods generally contained artificial or synthetic sweeteners.
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People who are making an effort to shed some extra flab usually look for foods that have very low calorie and sugar. In fact, they have several options that are easily available. However, it is important to note that foods that have low sugar content are usually made sweet by adding artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Hence, taking such foods will not be of any help if you are looking to lose weight.
Diet foods that are processed may actually put off weight loss - it is accept as true that our body looks forward to carbs depending on the food’s taste. And when our body does not get them, it results in pangs of hunger and subsequently binge eating. Therefore, rather than filling the gap created by the absence of sugar with diet foods and drinks, it is advisable that you should eat fresh foods and drink lots of water along with lime, lemon or cucumbers. This will enable the body to get the carbonation it expects but without the harmful sugar.
In fact, several people have reported that they experienced pain and inflammation after they consumed aspartame. It is thought that several people have allergic reactions to aspartame. This is because their body makes an attempt to protect itself from harmful chemicals that are present in this artificial sweetener. This, in turn, gives rise to allergic reactions. In addition, aspartame can lead to inflammation of the soft tissues in the body, leading to discomfort and pain.
Whether or not you are allergic to this artificial sweetener can be ascertained by undergoing an allergen test. The only treatment for getting rid of such allergies is to completely get rid of aspartame and other such artificial sweeteners from your diet. Findings of a study undertaken by scientists at the Arizona State University on 551 people who regularly consumed anything between moderate and large amounts of aspartame reported that they suffered from systematic joint pain. The pain experienced by them is so relentless that they often need to take analgesics.
When aspartame was first introduced in the market in the early 1980s by adding this artificial sweetener in soft drinks, the FDA got numerous complaints regarding the adverse effects as well as reactions after consuming it. One of the common complaints was stomach cramps. This was particularly within a year of the product being introduced in the marker. Even now, many people who experience stomach cramps and abdominal pain claim that the symptoms are gone once they exclude such artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, from their diet. It has been seen that aspartame does not have any permanent effect because the reactions do not occur after people make positive changes in their diet.
A study compiled by scientists at the University of Iowa showed that diets containing high amounts of aspartame usually had a biphasic effect on people’s appetite. In other words, high concentration of this artificial sweetener in died resulted in decline in hunger for a brief period. Such drop in hunger was soon followed by a craving for food, which augmented as the level of aspartame increased in their diet. According to researchers, this was a sort of "sweetness" increased hunger.
Among all food items against which the FDA regularly receives complaints, aspartame is ranked at the top. According to a modest estimate as much as 30 percent of people are susceptible to this artificial sweetener. It is interesting to note that more than a thousand cases of pilot grievances exist against aspartame. Seizures top the list of such complaints.
It is very likely that methanol found in aspartame and also present in diet soda results in more noxious reactions when it is ingested at high altitude, for instance on an aircraft. There is another theory too. According to the second theory, when pilots drink a lot of diet soda on a flight, it increases the risks of developing the potential side effects of aspartame, such as seizures.
As of now, the FDA has with it a list containing about 90 recognized symptoms of consuming aspartame or foods containing the compound. Some of these symptoms include hearing loss, noise intolerance, ringing and bussing in the ear. A condition wherein there is relentless weakening ringing of the ears known tinnitus is quite common. Many people have reported developing this condition after they consumed aspartame. It is worrying to note that hearing loss which is linked to consumption of aspartame can be a permanent disability.
However, there is good news too. Aside from tinnitus, majority of the hearing problems associated with consumption of aspartame can be cured just by staying away from this artificial sweetener.