Mar 19, 2015
BACKGROUND: Aspartame is a commonly used intense artificial sweetener, being approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose. There have been concerns over aspartame since approval in the 1980s including a large anecdotal database reporting severe symptoms. The objective of this study was to compare the acute symptom effects of aspartame to a control preparation. METHODS: This was a double-blind randomized cross over study conducted in a clinical research unit in United Kingdom. Forty-eight individual who has self reported sensitivity to aspartame were compared to 48 age and gender matched aspartame non-sensitive individuals. They were given aspartame (100mg)-containing or control snack bars randomly at least 7 days apart. The main outcome measures were acute effects of aspartame measured using repeated ratings of 14 symptoms, biochemistry and metabonomics. RESULTS: Aspartame sensitive and non-sensitive participants differed psychologically at baseline in handling feelings and perceived stress. Sensitive participants had higher triglycerides (2.05 ± 1.44 vs. 1.26 ± 0.84mmol/L; p value 0.008) and lower HDL-C (1.16 ± 0.34 vs. 1.35 ± 0.54 mmol/L; p value 0.04), reflected in 1H NMR serum analysis that showed differences in the baseline lipid content between the two groups. Urine metabonomic studies showed no significant differences. None of the rated symptoms differed between aspartame and control bars, or between sensitive and control participants. However, aspartame sensitive participants rated more symptoms particularly in the first test session, whether this was placebo or control. Aspartame and control bars affected GLP-1, GIP, tyrosine and phenylalanine levels equally in both aspartame sensitive and non-sensitive subjects. CONCLUSION: Using a comprehensive battery of psychological tests, biochemistry and state of the art metabonomics there was no evidence of any acute adverse responses to aspartame. This independent study gives reassurance to both regulatory bodies and the public that acute ingestion of aspartame does not have any detectable psychological or metabolic effects in humans. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN Registry ISRCTN39650237.