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You’ve probably heard a lot about aspartame — or at least a lot of rumors. With more than 6,000 products on the market sweetened with aspartame including chewing gums, puddings, drinks, desserts, yogurt, vitamins and more, aspartame and other no- and low-calorie sweeteners provide that sweet taste you want in your favorite products, but help keep the calories in check.
Simply put, aspartame is made up of two amino acids (also known as the building blocks for proteins) and is found naturally in many of the foods we eat, including meats, eggs, grains, dairy products and vegetables.
Yet, many have concerns about sweeteners, especially aspartame, and the products that contain it. Common misconceptions include that aspartame contributes to cancer, causes increased appetite or food intake, promotes tooth decay and raises blood-glucose levels. Those are some daunting and inaccurate claims, as “More than 200 studies conducted on sweeteners over the past 40 years have proved aspartame’s safety time and time again, and hundreds of millions of people from all over the world have been enjoying this sweetener safely* for decades,1” according to Rhona Applebaum, Vice President and Chief Science and Health Officer of The Coca-Cola Company.
Applebaum says she consumes aspartame-sweetened foods and beverages and “As a mother, scientist and longtime Coca-Cola employee, let me reassure you that not only do I consume aspartame-sweetened foods and beverages, but I also let my family consume them and recommend them to my friends and colleagues as part of a sensible, balanced diet to help them manage their weight.” Why? Because all calories count in managing weight, including those in Coca-Cola’s products. “At Coca-Cola, we use aspartame and other low-calorie sweeteners to give people the best of both worlds: Great taste without adding calories.”
Beverages are the only foods that can provide the refreshment, taste and hydration with and without calories, a fact often overlooked in discussions around calories and weight management. “Coca-Cola’s diet and zero-calorie beverages contain low or no calories. Further, we offer 180 low- and no-calorie beverages in the U.S. So for people looking to manage their calories or for those who just like the taste, we have something for everyone,” Applebaum says.
When the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked specifically at the research on aspartame, it found that the sweetener does not increase appetite or food intake. Experts, including those from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, have found that aspartame and other sweeteners do not cause cancer or other adverse health outcomes.
Applebaum notes, that while simply using low-calorie sweeteners won’t prevent weight gain or promote weight loss, their use can help support an overall healthful diet by making reduced-calorie foods and beverages more enjoyable.
“And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also make clear that a healthy, balanced lifestyle must also include regular physical activity. It’s about achieving an active, healthy and balanced lifestyle,” she says.
For additional resources, visit http://www.beverageinstitute.org. The Coca-Cola Company Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness is part of our ongoing commitment to advance scientific knowledge, awareness and understanding of beverages, and the importance of an active, healthy and balanced lifestyle. It serves as a valued resource for health professionals and others worldwide on the science, safety and benefits of beverages and their ingredients, as well as the importance of diet, nutrition and physical activity to health and well-being.
* There is one, rare inherited disease where aspartame poses a risk and this Phenylketonuria (PKU). Those with PKU cannot metabolize the essential amino acid phenylalanine (one of the building blocks for aspartame.2 In the U.S. and many other countries, routine screenings for PKU is required for all newborns.
1 Calorie Control Council. 2013. Aspartame. http://www.caloriecontrol.org/sweeteners-and-lite/sugar-substitutes/aspartame
American Cancer Society. 2011. Aspartame. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame
2 National Institutes of Health, 2000. phenylketonuria (PKU) http://consensus.nih.gov/2000/2000phenylketonuria113html.htm