Aspartame: composition, danger, worse than sugar?

Aspartame composition danger worse than sugar

Aspartame is a sweetened artificial sweetener, found under the name E 951. It is found in low-fat or “light” products. Its consumption has been studied in order to better consider its effects on health.

Definition: what is aspartame?

Aspartame is a artificial sweetener sweet tasting which comes in the form of a odorless white powder. Its calorie content is identical to that of sucrose but its sweetening power is 200 times greater. It is used as food additive in the manufacture of a large number of beverages and foods with low caloric intake called light, as well as for that of some medications.

What is the composition of aspartame?

Aspartame is a dipeptide composed of two amino acids: L-phenylalanine, in the form of methyl ester, and L-aspartic acid. It is referenced in the European Union by the code E 951.

In which products is aspartame found?

Aspartame is used for sweeten so-called low-calorie or light foods such as drinks, yogurts or desserts, confectionery or chewing gum. “According to the results of the cohort study NutriNet-Healthwhich evaluated the consumption of sweeteners in more than 100,000 French adults, aspartame was mainly found in three main types of products: sweetened drinks such as some diet sodas – in which another sweetener, acesulfame-K, is sometimes combined – accounted for approximately 40% of the intake, in the table-top sweeteners (sugar type) for about 48% and also in the sweetened dairy products (6%). It can also be found, but this is less frequent, in other products of like cookies or chips“, specifies Mathilde Touvier. The list of food categories in which it is used are listed on the Codex Alimentarius website. The free application Open Food Facts makes it possible to identify the products available on the market and which contain it.

Is aspartame authorized in case of diabetes?

What is scientifically proven is that the excess of sugar and sugary drinks has deleterious effects on the risk of diabetesand more generally on health: cardiovascular mortality, hypertension, cavities, fatty liver disease” she lists. Diabetic patients could therefore be tempted to turn to sweetened products. A fair balance must be found, in consultation with their doctor and / or diabetologist. In the current state, health authorities do not encourage the substitution of sugar with sweeteners.

Are there any dangers in consuming aspartame?

Over the years, potential risks on the microbiota have, for example, been demonstrated in experimental studies carried out in animals; risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have also been suggested in other studies focusing on the evaluation of the consumption of sweetened beverages in humans. The Nutri-Net Santé study, launched in 2009, made it possible to quantify daily exposure to aspartame and sweeteners (in mg or μg/day) through the consumption of French people on all the products concerned (500 000 food questionnaires analysed). The results revealed an association between exposure to sweeteners and an increased risk of developing certain pathologies. “ANSES, the national agency for food, environmental and occupational health safety, has thus encouraged to globally limit the sweet taste in diet, consumption of sugar and sugary drinks, and not to consider sweeteners as a safe alternative to sugar in the current state of knowledge“, adds Mathilde Touvier.

Does aspartame increase the risk of cancer?

The collective expertise underway at the international level will make it possible to decide on this question in the coming years. In the NutriNet-Santé study, we observed an association between the consumption of sweeteners, including aspartame, and an increased risk of cancer, in a study published in PloS Medicine in the spring of 2022.”The results observed were overall a increased risk of cancer both through the sum total of sweeteners, but also in detail with aspartame and acesulfame-K. In this study, the cancer sites for which links were noted were more specifically breast cancers, and those linked to obesity, i.e. cancers for which obesity is a risk factor“, she underlines.

Is aspartame worse than sugar for health?

We cannot conclude this in the current state of knowledge. The deleterious health effects of excess sugar or sugary drinks are proven (cardiovascular mortality, NASH, dental caries, etc.). When it comes to sweeteners, the scientific evidence is not at that level (yet), but research is progressing. In the NutriNet-Santé study, both excess sugar and sweeteners were associated with the risk of different chronic diseases.

Thanks to Dr Mathilde Touvier, Director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team (EREN), UMR U1153 Inserm, U1125 Inrae, Cnam, Sorbonne Paris Nord University; Center for Research in Epidemiology and Statistics, Paris Cité University (Cress)