Editorials

Aspartame and its effects on health

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7469.755 (Published 30 September 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:755
  1. Michael E J Lean, professor ([email protected]),
  2. Catherine R Hankey, lecturer, University Department of Human Nutrition
  1. Division of Developmental Medicine, University of Glasgow, Royal Infirmary, Queen Elizabeth Building, Glasgow G31 2ER
  2. Division of Developmental Medicine, University of Glasgow, Royal Infirmary, Queen Elizabeth Building, Glasgow G31 2ER

    The sweetener has been demonised unfairly in sections of the press and several websites

    The European population of 375 million consumes about 2000 tonnes annually of aspartame (NutraSweet, Canderel) an artificial sweetener, which contains two amino acids—aspartic acid and phenylalanine.1 It is 180-200 times sweeter than sucrose, and almost half a million extra tonnes of sugar would therefore be needed to generate the same sweetness. Was the world screaming for all this sweetness, and what has it done to us? Anyone searching the web on aspartame, launched in 1981 by Monsanto, the manufacturer of NutraSweet, will find a vast catalogue of frightening personal accounts attributing multiple health disasters to exposure to aspartame.1 Although no orchestrated public outcry about aspartame has taken place, much sensationalist journalism has been published mostly on websites (for example, www.holisticmed.com/aspartame). In contrast, aspartame marketing implies that it embodies a healthy way of life and avoids obesity. Are these claims of hazards and benefits supported by evidence?

    Evidence does not support links between aspartame and cancer, hair loss, depression, dementia, behavioural disturbances, or any of the other conditions appearing in websites. Agencies …

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