I've heard that the artificial sweetener aspartame can
cause health problems later in life. Is it safe to let kids have
foods or candy that contain it?
Some have expressed concerns about the safety of aspartame, and
there has been debate over whether it might be linked to a variety
of symptoms and illnesses. However, based on current scientific
evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved
aspartame as safe for kids and adults to consume. (The FDA has also
approved four other artificial sweeteners: saccharine, acesulfame
potassium [acesulfame-K], neotame, and sucralose.)
Government regulators in more than 100 other countries, along
with independent groups such as the American Medical Association
(AMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), also have said
that food and drinks containing aspartame are safe as long as
they're part of a balanced diet.
The FDA does recommend that kids and adults limit how much
aspartame they consume to no more than 50 milligrams of aspartame
per 2.2 pound (1 kilogram) of body weight per day. The average
person consumes less that 2% of this amount per day, so it would be
difficult to consume harmful amounts of aspartame.
Here's a quick guide to popular products and the average
amount of aspartame in each serving:
- 12 ounces (360 milliliters) of diet soda = 225 milligrams of
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) of sugar-free frozen dairy dessert
(frozen yogurt, ice cream, etc.) = 47 milligrams of
- 1 packet of artificial sweetener = 37 milligrams of
Some people should avoid aspartame. Anyone who has the rare
hereditary disease phenylketonuria (PKU) is unable to break down
the compound phenylalanine, which is in aspartame. Consumption of
too much aspartame can result in brain damage and cognitive
impairment for anyone with PKU.
The FDA requires all products that contain artificial sweeteners
to state that on the label. However, if you are concerned about
your kids' aspartame consumption, talk with your doctor.
For more information, check out these articles:
Deciphering Food Labels
Healthy Drinks for Kids
Nutrition and Fitness Center
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2007
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