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What are the side effects of aspartame?

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Quick Answer

Aspartame contains phenylalanine, which can cause brain damage, seizures and mental retardation in people who have a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria, reports Mayo Clinic. In large doses, aspartame increases phenylalanine brain levels quickly, and it should be used cautiously by people with certain medical conditions.

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Full Answer

People with phenylketonuria have excess amounts of phenylalanine in their blood and cannot process it adequately, states Healthline. Aspartame increases phenylalanine to toxic levels in people with phenylketonuria. It may also worsen uncontrollable muscle movements caused by some schizophrenia medications.

Critics of aspartame claim that the artificial sweetener can cause cancer, lupus, seizures, multiple sclerosis and depression, says Healthline. Aspartame has been extensively tested, and as of 2015, clinical evidence does not support any of these claims. Aspartame has received approval from numerous regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization. After reviewing more than 600 datasets in 2013, the European Food Safety Authority concluded that aspartame was safe for consumption.

Sold as a sweetener under the brand names Equal and Nutrasweet, aspartame is commonly found in products such as diet drinks, gum, yogurt and cereal, notes Healthline.

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