(RxWiki News) Many people consume aspartame, a sugar substitute, in diet foods and drinks. A European food safety organization recently examined whether it is safe to consume.
The European Food Safety Administration (EFSA) looked at available scientific information and medical research to determine if there are any risks linked to aspartame.
After evaluating both human and animal studies, the panel found that the substance is safe to consume — except for people whose bodies cannot process phenylalanine, an amino acid.
"Do not consume more than 40 mg of aspartame per kilogram of body weight per day."
Dr. Alicja Mortensen served as the chair of the EFSA's Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods (ANS Panel). The ANS Panel was made up of food safety experts.
Previous studies have raised questions about the safety of aspartame, an artificial sweetener.
To determine whether aspartame is safe and at what quantities, the ANS Panel looked at original studies and experiments with humans and animals.
The panel of researchers found that, after aspartame is consumed, it breaks down into three substances: methanol, aspartic acid, and phenylalanine — which all occur naturally in other foods.
Based on the research, the panel members focused on phenylalanine, which they determined to be the most concerning substance of the three based on animal studies.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid, or part of a protein.
The researchers concluded that the body is capable of processing the phenylalanine if a person consumed 40 mg of asparatame per kilogram of body weight each day.
The panel's published report cited several human studies in which aspartame was administered and participants' blood work was taken. In the studies, aspartame did not lead to any serious side effects.
The panel members did note that some people are born with genetic mutations that prevent the metabolism of phenylalanine, and those people should avoid aspartame.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not consider aspartame to be toxic and advises that people consume less than 50 mg of aspartame per kilogram of body weight each day.
The ESFS ANS Panel published their scientific opinion on aspartame on December 10.