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Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH

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Effects of Aspartame on Short and Long-Term Weight Control

Posted in
Eat better

Thursday, Jun 26, 2014

The average U.S. adult consumes 14.6% of total daily calories from added sugars, such as those found in non-diet soft drinks and many other foods and beverages. High intake of added sugars is associated with higher calorie intake and lower diet quality, which can increase the risk for obesity, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease1.

Because of Americans preference for sweeter foods, the use of non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) has exploded over the past few decades. Since 1958, the Food and Drug Administration has been responsible for evaluating the safety and acceptable daily intake levels of NNS for the population. Seven NNS are currently approved for use in the United States, with aspartame being one of the most commonly used. The maximal acceptable daily intake for aspartame is 50 mg/kg of body weight2. To put this in perspective, a 154 lb (70 kg) man would be allowed a maximal daily aspartame intake of 3500 mg.

In a study conducted by Blackburn et al., the use of aspartame in a multidisciplinary weight-control program was evaluated. The study assessed whether aspartame would enhance weight loss and long-term control of body weight3.

One hundred and sixty-three obese women were randomly assigned to consume (Group 1) or abstain (Group 2) from aspartame-sweetened foods and beverages during 16 weeks (active weight loss) of a 19 week weight reduction program, a one year maintenance program, and a two year follow-up period. At week 9, the average daily aspartame intake for Group 1 was 285 mg/day. As a reference point, there are ~180 mg of aspartame in a 12 ounce aspartame-sweetened carbonated soft drink.

The study found that women in both treatment groups lost approximately 10% of initial body weight during the 16 week period. In Group 1, higher consumption of aspartame was predictive of greater weight loss during the 16 week active weight loss period.

During maintenance and follow-up, participants in the aspartame group experienced a 2.6% and 4.6% regain of initial body weight after 71 and 175 weeks respectively, whereas those in the non-aspartame group regained an average of 5.4% and 9.4% respectively.

Percentage weight loss at 71 and 175 weeks was also positively correlated with exercise and self-reported eating control.

These data suggest that weight control programs which include aspartame may facilitate weight-loss and long-term body weight control. However, moderation in aspartame consumption is recommended. Although there is little evidence to suggest a link between aspartame and health conditions such as cancer, birth defects, or behavior problems, excessive consumption of any NNS is discouraged4.

For additional information regarding healthy weight loss, consider The Cooper Institute’s Weight Control Strategies course.

References:

1Position Paper (2012).  Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Non-nutritive Sweeteners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112:739-758.

2Food and Drug Administration. (2011). Substances generally recognized as safe. Retrieved from www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1997-04-17/pdf/97-9706.pdf

3Blackburn G., Kanders B., Lavin P., Keller S., Whatley J. (1997). The effect of aspartame as part of a multidisciplinary weight-control program on short- and long-term control of body weight. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 65:409-418.

4Ansel, K. (2014). The Inside Scoop on Artificial Sweeteners. Retrieved May 20, 2014 from http://www.eatright.org/kids/article.aspx?id=6442463177&terms=aspartame