Is Aspartame Actually Bad For You?

PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHRISTY KURTZ.
In a matter of months, Pepsi will replace aspartame with sucralose in their Diet Pepsi drinks — even Wild Cherry will not be spared. Since the company is essentially switching one popular and widespread artificial sweetener for another, we have to wonder, why is aspartame considered the worse option? Beyond that, is there any truth to consumers' concerns about the ingredient?

The American Chemical Society set out to answer those questions in the video below, the latest in their Reactions video series. More than 6,000 food and beverage products contain aspartame, which was discovered in the mid-60s. The chemical has actually been very well-studied for its effects on human health, but many consumers are still skeptical about its safety. As the video explains, this could be because, when we digest aspartame, it gets partially broken down into a compound called methanol, which is then metabolized into formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Of course, if this was where aspartame's journey through your body ended, it wouldn't be unreasonable to have qualms about eating it. But it's not that simple — for one thing, the formaldehyde never actually builds up or gets stored in your body.

Many people also say they have a sensitivity to aspartame (similar to MSG), which they claim causes symptoms like headaches and even seizures. But as the video clarifies, studies conducted to understand this condition brought up zero evidence to suggest that an "aspartame allergy" exists.

Aspartame isn't safe for everyone, however. It needs to be avoided by people who have a very real but relatively rare condition called phenylketonuria — they can't break down a compound in aspartame known as phenylalanine.

So, it looks like Pepsi didn't need to make the switch for any dire medical or scientific reasons. But seeing as how aspartame has been met with public resistance since its initial FDA approval, it probably won't shake its bad reputation any time soon.

Check out the video below for more info on how exactly aspartame breaks down and just how many cans of diet soda you'd have to drink to see any adverse effects.

Advertisement
Video Via YouTube
Advertisement

More from Diet & Nutrition

It seems like everyone’s looking for ways to eat more protein. And there’s a good reason for it, too: Often known as the “building block” of the body, ...
While you'll probably never hear anyone raving about the deliciousness of their school cafeteria hot lunch, it's a much better alternative to not having it...
On Monday, Kellogg's recalled 10,000 Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat Waffles packages that were potentially contaminated. And on Wednesday, Blue Bell Creameries ...
On Wednesday, I was in one of those elevators with a news and advertising screen when I was faced yet again with the results of the month of sobriety ...
If you haven't yet heard the word “gluten,” you've probably been living under a rock. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Miley Cyrus have embraced the...
If Stranger Things reawakened your childhood love for the ubiquitous Eggo waffle, we have some pretty upsetting news. On Monday, Kellogg's voluntarily ...
Apple cider vinegar's (ACV) reputation as a miracle cure certainly isn't new — supposedly even the Ancient Greeks were into the stuff. Today, though, the...
Hackers leaked the medical files of Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Venus Williams, and basketball player Elena Delle Donne early Tuesday, the World Anti-...
This article was originally published on April 26, 2016. Yes, it's true that health food can be staggeringly expensive — especially if it's something ...
We don't do diets. But we still love to eat — and we want to eat well. In her column, How To Eat, Refinery29's favorite intuitive eating coach Christy ...
As you know, food is fuel. Eating a balanced diet can help you feel healthier and more energized. One of the best benefits of eating well, however, is the ...
Every now and then, we all need to indulge in some quick and easy drive-thru fast food — whether it’s because we’re seriously pressed for time, have a ...
You're heard it time and again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But mornings can be hard enough without having to figure out something ...
The past few months were abuzz with news of cockroach milk, but, as fall approaches, a new bug-driven superfood trend is upon us. Dutch researchers are ...