What is Aspartame?

Curious about low-calorie sweeteners?  You’re not alone.  Conflicting information about low-calorie sweeteners seems to be reaching new heights, so we’ve searched high and low for the facts. Here’s the low-down on aspartame.

What is Aspartame and Where Did it Come From?

Aspartame was discovered by accident by scientist James M. Schlatter in 1965. As Schlatter was researching an anti-ulcer drug, he licked his finger to get a better grip, and the sweetness he tasted was aspartame. Aspartame is made up of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. When aspartame is eaten, it’s broken down into these amino acids and a small amount of methanol in your body. All these components are naturally found in several foods, including fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs.

Sweet as Sugar?

Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, which means only a very small amount is needed to match the sweetness of sugar. Just like sugar, aspartame contains four calories per gram.

However, because aspartame is much sweeter than sugar, only small amounts of aspartame are needed in foods and beverages. This helps keep calories from aspartame very low per serving. Aspartame is the primary sweetener found in brand names like Equal® and Nutrasweet®.

Is it Safe?

Yes, aspartame is safe to consume. It’s one of eight low and no-calorie sweeteners permitted by the FDA for use in the US food supply. All eight have been rigorously tested and reviewed. Leading global health authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and Health Canada have found low and no-calorie sweeteners to be safe. The FDA approved aspartame for use in foods in 1981.

What’s the Bottom Line on Aspartame?

All foods can have a place in our diets, and low- and no- calorie sweeteners are no different. In addition, aspartame is one of many safe options that can be included in broader weight reduction or weight maintenance plans. What’s most important is to build a healthy eating style and support it with other healthy habits that are sustainable and tailored to your health and lifestyle needs.

Before you depart, check out our latest aspartame infographic below.

Still looking for more? Take our Aspartame Fact Sheet as a parting gift.