Aspartame’s Sickeningly Sweet Controversy

If you want to get a good discussion going on a controversial subject, just say the word “aspartame.”

“It’s hard to believe such a chemical would be allowed into the food supply, but it was, and it has been wreaking silent havoc with people’s health for the past 30 years,” according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of Sweet Deception.

Dr. Mercola, a licensed osteopathic physician (DO), writes in the Huffington Post that the FDA approval for aspartame for use in food was the most contested in FDA history, having been previously listed by the Pentagon as a biochemical warfare agent! He goes on to explain deceptive marketing campaigns, health hazards, and the reasons he believes the FDA was pressured into approving the substance.

Aspartame is sold under several names and can be found in thousands of foods and drinks, especially those sold as low-calorie or diet products. Complaints have been pouring in to the FDA for years, ranging from neurological disorders to gastrointestinal problems.

Aspartame has been blamed for causing everything from multiple sclerosis to cancer. A viral email warning of aspartame’s dangers has been circulating online for years. I’ve been the recipient of these emails dozens of times.

Not everyone agrees with Dr. Mercola. In 2007, the FDA issued a statement on the European Aspartame Study entitled Long-Term Carcinogenicity Bioassays to Evaluate the Potential Biological Effects, in Particular Carcinogenic, of Aspartame Administered in Feed to Sprague-Dawley Rats and said: FDA reviewed the study data made available to them by ERF and finds that it does not support ERF’s conclusion that aspartame is a carcinogen. Additionally, these data do not provide evidence to alter FDA’s conclusion that the use of aspartame is safe. FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food.”

The Mayo Clinic seems to go along with the FDA and a 1999 Time article calls it a “health rumor.” says the claims that aspartame has been proven responsible for cancer, brain tumors, and multiple sclerosis are false, citing several publications which support that view.

From The National MS Society: “No scientific evidence supports the claims on several Web sites that aspartame, an artificial sweetener used in many diet soft drinks and other foods, causes MS.”

From the International Food Information Council Federation: “Prior to its approval, aspartame underwent one of the most thorough scientific reviews ever conducted, and regulators consider it one of the most widely tested ingredients in the food supply. The safety of aspartame has been affirmed by the FDA and leading independent health groups, such as the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Diabetes Association.”

The American Cancer Society: “Research on artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, continues today. Current evidence does not demonstrate any link between aspartame and an increased risk of cancer. Aspartame has not been linked with other health problems except among people with the genetic disorder, phenylketonuria. People with this disorder should avoid aspartame in their diet.”

Regarding diet soda in general, The American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Forecast Magazine (May 2008): “You may want to put down that diet soda. New research inserts a question mark after the “diet” part of your drink. In the study, people who drank a can or more of diet soda daily showed a 34-percent higher risk of developing the metabolic syndrome: a cluster of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors including elevated waist circumference and high blood pressure, blood lipids, and fasting glucose levels.”

You need only do a brief search on the Web to discover that these excerpts are only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot of conflicting information… so what’s a layperson to do?

Since Aspartame is not a substance our bodies need for good health and nutrition, it may be better to err on the side of caution.


Photo Credit: thanks to Sultry via flickr for the image


Joe R.
Joe R5 years ago


Shannon Lee
Shannon Lee6 years ago

It's harmful. It has numerous health hazards, too many to count. It causes illnesses. Why is there still controversy? ITS BAD. simple as that.

Jennifer B.
Jennifer Byrkit6 years ago

Aspartame and the many forms of fake sugar give me migraines. Stay away from it.

BILL DIMICK6 years ago

Never buy anything with that poison!

Evelyn D.
Evelyn D6 years ago

They only aspartame I consume is in gum and even there I limit my intake. I sometimes get headaches but maybe it's from all that chewing. ;)

Christine F.

I find it quite frightening that aspartame is spoken of as: "regulators consider it one of the most widely tested ingredients in the food supply" when there is still so much controversy about it. That makes me even more worried about other debated products that have been sanctioned by the FDA without anywhere near as much testing.
If it's not the chemicals in the aspartame, it must be other chemicals in the products which use aspartame since there are so many hundreds of thousands of people who have effect from aspartame-containing items.
Surely there should be a huge load of research going into this, to find out what chemical, or combination of chemicals, is causing problems.
I personally am beginning to edge ever closer to organic than I have ever been - I think the majority of "chemicals" should be banned from human *and animal* food and also from plants for food, unless these chemicals are natural to food, and in a natural combination.

Emma Frandsen
Past Member 6 years ago

it causes macular degeneration too

Lorrie B.
Lorrie B6 years ago

The question of what's a diabetic to do without aspartame is kind of silly - how about consuming some fruits, vegetables, and good old water? I am diabetic, too, and a dietician told me it was fine to bake using just 1/2 the sugar instead of using artificial sweeteners. I also work in a health food store and have heard different people say that if they used anything with aspartame, they would get headaches soon after. Artificial sweeteners will always be artificial, just use natural sweeteners in moderation.

Sa R.
Sa R6 years ago

What should diabetic people do? Is there any safe replacement?

Nona E.
Nona E6 years ago

Sounds like there is little solid information of good or bad. Either way, we are ultimately responsible for our own intake. Make a personal commitment to eliminate or cut back on consumption.