Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, often denoted as E951. Originally sold under the brand name NutraSweet, aspartame was approved for use in food products in the 1980s.
As a sugar substitute, aspartame stimulates the taste buds on the tongue in the same way as sugar.
It is used in a variety of foods, beverages, desserts, sweets, breakfast cereals, chewing gums and weight-control products. It is also used as a tabletop sweetener. Aspartame is highly controversial. Thousands of websites claim that it is seriously harmful. Aspartame is blamed for hundreds of health problems, ranging from cancer to headaches.
However, most of these have not been confirmed by science. Below is a review of the scientific evidence behind the most common claims.
Claim: Aspartame Causes Cancer
A few notable animal studies from the European Ramazzini Foundation suggest that aspartame may cause cancer. However, other scientists have criticized these studies for using poor methods and not being very relevant to humans.
One observational study in humans found a weak connection between certain types of cancer and aspartame, but only in men.
Other observational studies did not find an association between aspartame intake and brain or blood cancer. Additionally, scientific reviews have concluded that there is no evidence that aspartame in the human diet causes cancer.
Claim: Aspartame Causes Weight Gain
As a low-calorie sweetener, aspartame is commonly consumed by people who want to enjoy the sweetness but need to limit their sugar intake. Although it is clear that aspartame does not cause weight gain, its usefulness for weight loss has been questioned.
However, most studies suggest that replacing sugar with aspartame may be useful to prevent future weight gain.