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What Is the Relationship between Aspartame and Diabetes?

A glass of diet soda, which contains aspartame.
Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are controversial.
Aspartame contains methanol.
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  • Written By: Jillian Peterson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2014
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Ever since the artificial sweetener aspartame came onto the market, there has been a debate about whether there is a harmful relationship between it and diabetes. While some sources maintain that aspartame affects many different neurological systems and worsens diabetes symptoms, other sources claim that artificial sweeteners like aspartame have no adverse effects on diabetics. Detractors of aspartame assert that long-term use of the sweetener can make blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly, but the American Diabetes Association says that aspartame is safe for diabetics to consume.

The belief that there is a harmful relationship between aspartame and diabetes is based on a few facts about how aspartame works in the body. Once consumed, the sweetener breaks down into its component chemicals: phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. High levels of methanol and phenylalanine in the body can cause health problems, especially with the nerves. Those who claim that the relationship between aspartame and diabetes is harmful blame symptoms such as blindness and nerve damage on these chemicals.

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The chemical byproducts of aspartame in the body are indeed toxic in high levels, but doctors and researchers who argue for the safety of artificial sweeteners assert that these chemicals are not present at harmful levels in the aspartame. According to these experts, other natural foods like tomato juice can contain higher levels of methanol than the aspartame in one can of diet soda. Clinical studies have also shown that the body breaks down aspartame the same way it breaks down other foods, and the artificial sweetener does not leave excess chemicals in the blood.

Those who assert that there is no adverse relationship between aspartame and diabetes say that sugar substitutes like aspartame and saccharine can be healthy parts of a sugar-free diet. Many diabetes diets require that natural sugars be avoided; artificial sweeteners can help diabetics avoid these sugars while still being able to enjoy a wide variety of products. In fact, experts with the American Diabetes Association say artificial sweeteners can be beneficial to diabetes patients for these reasons.

The relationship between aspartame and diabetes has also been studied extensively by medical researchers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ran over 100 tests on aspartame before it declared the sweetener safe for human consumption in 1981, and hundreds of more tests have been done since. According to the FDA, there is no connection between aspartame and diabetes symptoms.

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