Sold under names like NutraSweet® and Equal®, aspartame is one of the more controversial and studied sweeteners on the market. In fact, "by 1994, 75 percent of all non-drug complaints to the FDA were in response to aspartame," says Cynthia Pasquella, clinical nutritionist and holistic practitioner. Those gripes ranged from vomiting and headaches, to abdominal pain and even cancer.
The Scoop: Aspartame has zero calories and is often used for baking, it contains a broth of unfamiliar ingredients, such as phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. "The methanol from aspartame breaks down in the body to become formaldehyde, which is then converted into formic acid," says Pasquella. "This can lead to metabolic acidosis, a condition where there is too much acid in the body and leads to disease." Even though aspartame's link to health problems has been highly studied, there's very little evidence to keep it off shelves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the accepted daily intake (ADI) at 50 mg/kg of body weight, which equals about 20 cans of aspartame-sweetened beverages for a 140-pound woman.
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