One of the Most Studied Ingredients in the World

Every day we make choices. What to wear. What to do first. What to eat and drink. Many voices and opinions influence the choices we make, especially when it comes to our diets. When aiming to manage a healthy weight as part of an active, healthy lifestyle, yet still enjoy the taste of the foods and beverages we like, we often opt for products that contain low- and no-calorie sweeteners, including aspartame. And that’s OK!

Recently there have been some inconsistent and concerning headlines in the news and online about aspartame, questioning its safety. In reality, aspartame is one of the most thoroughly studied ingredients in the world. And, millions of people have been safely enjoying products containing this sweetener for decades.i

Today the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded a full risk assessment of aspartame, which included a rigorous review of all available scientific research on the sweetener. EFSA found that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for human consumption at the current acceptable daily intake (ADI). (See below for more information on ADI.)

This opinion represents one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame ever undertaken. It’s a step forward in strengthening consumer confidence in the scientific underpinning of the EU food safety system and the regulations of food additives,” said the Chair of EFSA’s Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods (ANS Panel), Dr. Alicja Mortensen.

According to Craig Johnston, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, “This is great news for consumers who may sometimes be worried by the statements they read or hear regarding aspartame’s safety. I’m very pleased to see the safety of this important sweetener has once again been reconfirmed by EFSA and consumers can feel confident in using aspartame to help manage their weight.” Dr. Johnston recently co-authored the review, “The Role of Low-calorie Sweeteners in Diabetes” which appeared this year in US Endocrinology.

Making choices based on scientific evidence is smart. Here are some simple scientific facts about aspartame:

  • More than 200 studies supporting aspartame’s safety.

  • Studies show that aspartame is safe for children, people with diabetes, people trying to reduce weight and pregnant women.*

  • Aspartame itself does not enter the bloodstream, rather it is completely broken down in the intestine into its basic components.

  • The components of this sweetener are identical to common food components that that occur naturally in meats, grains, dairy products and ripening fruits.

  • The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for aspartame in a typical adult weighing ~150 pounds is 3,400 milligrams per day (think 97 packets of tabletop sweetener), according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Most people consume less than 10 percent of the ADI.

  • There is no credible evidence that aspartame causes cancer, increased appetite or food intake, tooth decay or raised blood glucose levels.

  • Aspartame has been permitted for use in foods and beverages by regulatory authorities around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority, French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety, Food Standards Australia-New Zealand, Health Canada, Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While we need to be mindful that managing caloric intake contributes to a healthy weight—and let’s be honest, this can be challenging given today’s demanding schedules—it is also important to remember that other factors play a role including making sure to get your recommended level of physical activity (minimum 150 minutes per week for adults), adequate sleep and managing stress. In our efforts to achieve and/or maintain a healthy energy (calorie) balance, aspartame is one tool that can be incorporated into a weight management strategy. And it’s a safe one—based on the expert opinion of many experts and authorities in the know—the latest one being EFSA.

So today when you decide what to eat and drink, consider yourself in the know, and then feel assured knowing that when it comes to aspartame, the only voice you need to listen to is your own.

Check out a story on the EFSA’s ruling in The Economic Times and in this article published today in The Washington Post.

i NOTE: Only people born with PKU (phenylketonuria), a rare genetic disorder, need to avoid phenylalanine, one of the components of aspartame, because their bodies cannot break it down.

Rhona Applebaum, PhD, is Vice President and Chief Science and Health Officer for
The Coca-Cola Company. Follow Rhona on Twitter @RhonaA_CocaCola.