Have you ever heard the term aspartame? It sounds weird and it is definitely a chemical compound. But did you know that this substance is included in your favorite soft drinks and beverages? Aspartame, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, is an artificial sweetener that is added to foods and drinks to acquire distinct level of sweetness. While it is definitely one of the reasons that you’ve kept coming back for more of your favorite soda, your body may not like it at all because of the health woes that it may cause in the long run. Let’s get to know more about Aspartame and its effects to our health.
Aspartame was first discovered in 1965, but it was several years later when FDA finally provided an approval of its use in carbonated drinks, beverages, and foods. NutraSweet, which was manufactured in 1965, was the very first brand of aspartame sold to the market. Today, it comes with other brand names such as Equal and Spoonful. Since then, it became the core of hot topics about its possible effects of a human’s health because of its main contents, which include methyl esther, phenylalanine, and amino acids. Nevertheless, reviews and tests reveal that the needed amount of aspartame to reach its desired sweetness is so minute its possible negative effects to the body are negligible.
The main residual components of aspartame include aspartic acid, methanol, and phenylalanine. Lately, scientists discovered that further breakdown of aspartame can change it into formaldehyde and formic acid, another set of chemical ingredients that are known as culprits to a number of health woes. Basically, prior to the breakdown, aspartame already consists of 40% aspartic acid, which is a substance known for increasing the body’s alcohol level and headaches.
Health Issues Caused by Aspartame
Before we move on to the possible adverse effects that this product can bring to the body, it should be known that FDA allows a person’s consumption of aspartame to no more than 50 milligrams. Exceeding this amount could cause health issues to the user. For instance, a 12 oz of soda contains 0.0063 oz or 180 milligrams of aspartame. In this case, a 75 kg adult would need to consume at least 21 cans of 12 oz sodas in order to exceed FDA’s given aspartame limit. How would an average adult consume all 21 cans in one sitting? Apparently, the aspartame does not harm the body on a daily basis. In fact, studies show that even diabetics, people who are high in blood sugar level, which is most likely caused by abnormal intake of sugar, don’t have exceeding levels of aspartame in their blood. Does that mean aspartame is healthy? Should we not be worried then? To know whether or not it’s safe, let’s start learning more about its components and how each of them can affect our health.
Aspartic acid a major component of aspartame is a non-essential amino acid. It is called as such because the body can produce this kind of compound sans any aid from external sources. Aspartic acid causes headache and increase of alcohol level of the body, particularly when it comes in contact with glutamate, another amino acid. It can even cause nerve and cell damage in the long run. These reactions can obviously affect one’s physical condition thought temporarily only. On the one hand, the latter can only be experienced when you drink alcohol with table sugar.
Methanol is another substance found when aspartame is broken down. Initial symptoms of methanol poisoning include dizziness, vomiting, conjunctivitis, gastric upsets, and nausea. It can also cause blurred vision, which can progress to visual impairment and permanent blindness. However, consuming your favorite canned sodas and beverages won’t necessarily cause blindness in the long run, but it can definitely cause immediate health woes including death when taken in large doses.
Phenylalanine is another substance found when aspartame is broken down. It is an amino acid, but it’s not necessarily and essential amino acid, and it comes in three different kinds of which L-phenylalanine is the essential amino acid. While the substance is helpful to the body, too much of it can cause birth defects, weak heart, facial defects, and nervous system ailments to fetuses. It is the main reason that pregnant women aren’t advised to drink a soft drinks and beverages, especially during the second and third trimester of the pregnancy since fetuses are highly at risk of facial defects in this stage. On the one hand, people with phenylketonuria are those whose bodies don’t regulate phenylalanine normally and cause build up of the said substance. They’re extremely advised to never take any goods that have the said compounds.
Clearly, aspartame has its own pros and cons. One, it is definitely a helpful substance in mimicking the real taste of sugar without leaving sugar’s undesirable amount of calories in the body. Unfortunately, it causes health issues, especially to people who tend to have recurring headaches. While it may be safe to consume very small amounts of aspartame, it may not still be totally safe at all. This means that if you really need to quench your thirst, go ahead, grab a can of soda, but never do it daily. Drink beverages and canned drinks rarely. Aside from that, never underestimate the power of exercise and healthy dieting.