Q:

Where does aspartame come from?

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Quick Answer

Aspartame is a noncaloric synthetic sweetener found in many soft drinks, and it is formed by combining the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Sold under the names Equal and NutraSweet, aspartame is a dipeptide methyl ester of L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanine that is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.

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Full Answer

Aspartame was originally discovered by the American chemical company Searle in 1965. The sweetener then gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1974. However, the approval was suspended several months later on the grounds that aspartame's potentially cancer-causing or toxic effects on the brain had not been fully studied. The FDA reapproved its use in solids foods in 1981 and as a sweetening agent in soft drinks in 1983. Aspartame was finally approved as a general sweetener in the United States in 1996.

Despite these approvals, there have been many questions over the health risks associated with aspartame since that time. Some of the potential health problems potentially linked to aspartame in some studies include alteration of the brain's neurochemical composition, changes in neuroendocrine functions, methanol toxicity, brain tumors and epilepsy. After looking at numerous studies, the American Cancer Society stated in 2014 that no health problems have been directly linked with aspartame.

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