Expert Report Dispels Common Myths About Aspartame
A report systematically evaluates virtually all available scientific information about aspartame and concludes that the low calorie sweetener is safe. The analysis was conducted by a panel of eight recognized scientists from research institutes and universities around the world.
As part of its work, the panel conducted a comprehensive analysis to estimate consumption of aspartame. They found that even among the heaviest users, consumption of the sweetener remains well below safe and accepted upper intake levels. Average intake among those who use aspartame is less than one tenth the amount confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration as safe (4.9 mg/kg/day versus 50 mg/kg/day).
"Because aspartame popularity has grown since its introduction in the early 1980's, the panel felt it was important to recalculate the sweetener's intake based on the most recent food consumption data available," said Bernadene A. Magnuson, Ph.D., a University of Maryland food toxicologist and panel coordinator for the Burdock Group of Vero Beach, Florida. "The new evaluation shows that today's intake, even among the highest category of users in special subgroups, is well below acceptable levels."
The expert panel's almost 100-page report also concludes that scientific studies support aspartame as a potential weight management tool, discounting recent claims that low calorie sweeteners somehow contribute to weight gain. "There is no credible evidence to support an association between consumption of aspartame and the development of obesity," said William J. Waddell, M.D., professor and chair, emeritus, toxicology, at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Dr. Waddell served as chair of the expert panel. "To the contrary, aspartame can be useful in helping attack both adult and childhood obesity when used as part of an overall weight control program."
The panel spent 11 months reviewing well over 500 scientific articles and reports on aspartame, which entered the food supply in 1981. Aspartame is a simple ingredient that the body breaks down to components found in common foods like milk, fruit and vegetables. It is estimated to be used in more than 6,000 food products worldwide, including most diet soft drinks and many sugar-free chewing gums. A quarter century after its introduction, aspartame continues to dominate its market, accounting for nearly 60 percent of low- calorie sweetener use in a recent analysis by SRI Consulting.
Multiple opinion surveys conducted in 2007 confirm that sugar is at the top of the list of ingredients consumers are seeking to reduce in their diets, even though they clearly enjoy the taste. The expert panel report reinforces the conclusion of regulatory authorities around the world that aspartame is a safe sugar substitute for use in beverages, foods, gums and other consumer products.
The review was structured in a unique manner. Dr. Waddell, on behalf of the Burdock Group, selected members to achieve representation of the complete spectrum of toxicological expertise relevant to aspartame. The identity of the sponsor, Ajinomoto, was unknown to the chair and expert panelists throughout the conduct and completion of the review, and submission and peer review of the manuscript. Panelist identity also remained unknown to the sponsor. There were no known conflicts of interest or potential biases of the authors.
Other members of the expert panel were John Doull of the University of Kansas Medical Center; the late Robert Kroes of the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands; Gary M. Marsh of the University of Pittsburgh; Michael W. Pariza of the University of Wisconsin; Peter S. Spencer of the Oregon Health and Science University; Ron Walker of the University of Surrey, United Kingdom; and Gary Murray Williams of New York Medical College. Their specialties, in addition to pharmacology and toxicology, include microbiology, biostatistics, and risk assessment.