Sunday, November 4, 2012

Aspartame Limits

   I have done much reading and writing about studies on the safety of artificial sweeteners over the years.  I have shared my opinion that the scientific studies are robust and that the FDA and the European equivalent EFSA were justified in approving saccharin, aspartame and sucralose for use in humans - adults and children.  
   I stand by my opinion.  I know that some people are allergic to specific compounds in these substances.  I know that aspartame is not heat stable (so don't bake with it).  Those two issues do not make the chemical unsafe  for the average person consuming reasonable amounts.
   There are at least two things that I did not know - or hadn't given thought to until I read the article by Schernhammer et. al discussed in my last post.  I hadn't considered the consequences of  long term use of any of the sweeteners.  It's true. We do not know what will happen if someone uses a particular amount of any of the sweeteners for 40 or more years.  We just expect that our short term studies in people extrapolate into years of safety.  
    With regard to aspartame in particular which is in all three of the diet sodas I prefer, as well as the packets I use to sweeten my cappuccino and oatmeal, I learned something new.  
   The FDA and the EFSA have determined that the ADI  - or acceptable daily intake of aspartame from all sources- is 40 or 50 mg/kg of body weight.  It depends on which country you live in!  The USA has the higher limit of 50mg/kg. To calculate what is safe for YOU and you live in America, you first have to convert your weight to kg.  That is approximately  your weight in pounds x 2.2.  
   That was one thing I wanted to bring to your attention.  Before we leave it, lets get an idea of what that upper limit means for people.  Some one who weighs 100 pounds ( I know who is that?!?) can ingest 40*43kg = 1720mg of aspartame in a day.  A person who weighs 150 pounds can ingest 40*68kg = 2720mg of aspartame in a day.  Recall that the sweetener is in many sugar free products and can be added with packets.  I do not know the limits on the other two sweeteners.
   The second thing I wanted to share and learned from the article is that a 20 ounce soda that is sweetened with aspartame contains about 350mg of it.  Therefore, those insane 64 ounce big gulp drinks that the Mayor of NYC is trying to restrict - if they were diet - would contain 1120 mg of aspartame.  So maybe he DOES need to add diet sodas to the regulation.
   I am comfortable using my aspartame and sucralose (for baking) but I think it is smart to keep track of how much you consume and to be mindful of any new science that becomes available. 

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