What are the alleged harmful effects of aspartame?


Quick Answer

Aspartame has been linked to cancer, diabetes and fibromyalgia in the press. While science does not support a connection between aspartame and cancer, an Israeli study linked aspartame to higher blood sugar, and fibromyalgia sufferers are advised to avoid aspartame, state the American Cancer Society, the Guardian and About.com.

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Full Answer

Animal studies involving exposure to huge doses of aspartame have not identified any health issues that have consistent links with the sweetener. Two studies from Italy suggested that rats might develop lymphoma and leukemia after ingesting high aspartame doses, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration questioned those results because of incomplete data and other issues with the research, states the American Cancer Society.

A study at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, concluded that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, can hinder the activity of healthy microbes in the digestive tract, elevating blood sugar levels. These higher levels are one of the initial signs of diabetes. However, these results were extrapolated from one sweetener in one species (mice), so many researchers find these results dubious, as stated by the Guardian.

For people who already have fibromyalgia, aspartame may activate pain receptors within the spinal cord and make the body more sensitive, which causes additional discomfort for people with the condition. There is no evidence that aspartame causes fibromyalgia, according to About.com.

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