Tuesday, 7 April 2015


 Aspartame : A Sweet Tasting Poison?

The risks and benefits of chemical technology and other products continue to grow as we discover more about them. Aspartame is one of the most controversial chemical additives found in our food today. The continuous struggle between manufacturers of this chemical additive and the scientists studying its effects has been ongoing for years since the additive was first introduced.  Aspartame is comprised primarily of two chemically combined amino acids, L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine. Although amino acids usually occur naturally in food products, they do not in aspartame itself and must be artificially manufactured. All amino acids have what is known as a carboxyl group, comprised of one carbon and two oxygen atoms, as well as an amino group, comprised of a nitrogen and two hydrogens. The two groups are bonded through a carbon atom and a hydrogen atom which was given away by the carboxyl group, causing it to become negatively charge and attracted towards the other positively charged groups. When a peptide bond (the bond formed between amino acids) is introduced to too much heat, it’s proteins are broken down into their constituent amino acids, letting them go free. This is why aspartame is not recommended for use during baking as it cannot withstand the high temperatures.

Aspartame’s use is seen in bringing down caloric numbers in soft drinks and other processed foods by acting as a sugar substitute. Because it is around 200 sweeter than regular sugar, less of it is required to acquire the level of sweetness desired, which in turn brings down the number of calories being consumed. But does its few positive effects justify its usage, when the negative effects of aspartame are just as numerous, if not more important? In looking once again at the amino acids, L-phenylalanine in particular, we can see it’s harm to people with what is known as phenylketonuria. For people with this condition, aspartame is highly toxic as they cannot properly process the amino acid phenylalanine. While aspartame has been said to cause other health problems such as:

  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • birth defects
  • seizures
  • headaches
  • lupus
  • multiple sclerosis

It has still been approved by numerous health-related organizations including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization as well as the World Health Organization. It is also worth noting that:
In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded a review of more than 600 datasets from aspartame studies. The group concluded there was no reason to remove aspartame from the market. (The Truth About Aspartame, para. 3)
In an article published by Healthline they discuss the ban on Sweet’n Low in the United States due the research indicating its cancer-causing properties. They speak of how “lab tests showed that massive doses of [saccharin] caused cancer and other disorders in laboratory animals” (para. 6). If we know that this sugar substitute similar to aspartame is cancer-causing, then why are we trusting the use of aspartame, which is still being researched today? As I do frequently get headaches chewing gum with aspartame, I do believe that when possible, aspartame should be avoided.

So what do you think? Is it fair to state that aspartame isn’t dangerous to our health, without adequate enough research? Do you think it’s fair to assume that since we used other sugar substitutes without knowing their full effects that we could be doing the same with aspartame?
I'll be posting soon about Unit 2 so get ready peeps!


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