Food makes news, and the public’s appetite for information is incessant. With the
advent of the Internet, breaking stories or rumours are available on a world-wide scale
within seconds. It’s a superb source of information, but also one to be handled with care.
 

A recent campaign on the web talks of Aspartame, and contains many unfounded
allegations, accusing this product of causing several illnesses from Multiple Sclerosis
through to Alzheimer’s Disease! Eufic’s aim is to provide you with science-based
information, and as Aspartame would seem to be the ‘flavour’ of the month, it is
time to recall the basics.
 

What is Aspartame?
 

Aspartame is a low-calorie, intensive sweetener which is approximately 200 times
sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It is used to sweeten a variety of foods and beverages
and as a tabletop sweetener.
 

How is Aspartame Made?
 

Aspartame is made by joining two amino acids (protein components), asparctic acid and
phenylalanine, and a small amount of methanol. These amino acids are found naturally in
all protein-containing foods, including meats, grains and dairy products. Methanol is
found naturally in the body and in many foods such as fruit and vegetable juices.
Aspartame is digested like any other amino acids.
 

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Why is Aspartame Used?
 

It tastes sweet, and helps people to control calorie-intake.
 

How do I know that Aspartame is safe?
 

Aspartame is classed as a food additive under European Food legislation, and as such,
underwent rigorous, safety evaluation by the Scientific Committee for Foods (SCF) before
its approval in 1981. Once an additive has been approved as safe across the European
Union, it is assigned an E-number and Aspartame carries the number E-951.
 

Safety evaluation includes studies which assess how the additive is handled in the body
and the intended uses in order to understand how much of the additive is likely to be
consumed.
 

Aspartame has been approved as safe for the general public – including diabetics,
pregnant and nursing women, and children – by more than 90 nations worldwide and by
regulatory bodies such as the United Nations’ Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food
Additives (JEFCA) and the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
 

Can Anybody Consume Aspartame?
 

Persons with a rare hereditary disease known as phenylketonuria (PKU) must control
their phenylalanine intake from all sources, including Aspartame. Thanks to EU regulation,
products sweetened with aspartame must be labelled that aspartame is a source of
phenylalanine, thus leaving the consumer the freedom to make an informed choice.
 

Is there any relationship between Aspartame and Multiple Sclerosis?
 

An unfounded campaign on the web tried to establish a link between aspartame and
Multiple Sclerosis. Many health professional associations have refuted this argument. Dr
David Squillacote, Senior Medical Advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation states
that there is no scientific evidence that aspartame in any way causes, provokes, mimics or
worsens Multiple Sclerosis. For further information, why not take a look at the Multiple
Sclerosis Foundation website: http://www.msfacts.org/aspartame.htm