ASPARTAME (Characteristics and Commercial Usage in food products)
Aspartame is a commonly used sugar substitute in many commercial food products. It is one of the common sugar substitute which is used to sweeten the diet food products specially recommended for the diabetics and health conscious people. Chemically Aspartame is not a carbohydrate. It is not available in nature but manufactured artificially by a chemical process in the laboratory. Let’s study about Aspartame in detail,
The characteristics of Aspartame are:
- It is a non-carbohydrate sweetener manufactured artificially by joining two amino acids Phenylalanine and Aspartic acid through a chemical process.
- It is a white, odorless, crystalline powder.
- It is 200 times sweeter than common sugar (sucrose)
- Quantity of aspartame required to sweeten the food is significantly lesser than that of common sugar due to its intense sweetness, thus it is called as a non-caloric artificial sweetener & recommended for the use in diet food items.
- It is denoted by code E-951.
- Aspartame becomes unstable at a high temperature and breaks down easily, which makes it unsuitable for the use in baked food or cooked food (which requires a high temperature).
- It is routinely used in many processed food / Junk food items.
The examples of food items which contain Aspartame are as follows:
- Soft drinks
- Diet Sodas and Diet soft drinks
- Processed/ Artificial fruit juices
- Flavored water
- Fruit Punch and Squashes
- Chewing Gums
- Desserts like
- Ice creams
- Frozen ices
- Ice cream toppings
- Sugar free ice creams
- Pudding mixes.
- Condiments like
- Barbeque sauce
- Jams and jellies
- Salad Dressings
- Maple Syrup
- Meal replacements like
- Weight loss bars
- Chewable Microvitamins
- Cough drops and Lozenges
After consumption, aspartame gets rapidly absorbed within the body from gastrointestinal tract. Once absorbed it gets quickly converted into its metabolites like,
- PHENYLALANINE (50%)
- ASPARTIC ACID (40%)
- METHANOL / METHYL ALCOHOL (10%)
- DIKETOPIPERAZINE (when food containing aspartame is stored for a long duration, phenylalanine gets converted into diketopiperazine)
Looking at the metabolism of Aspartame inside our body and its metabolites,the questions arise are. Is it safe? Is it really beneficial? Or by using Aspartame as a substitute for sugar are we further damaging our health? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are not very positive. Aspartame has many harmful effects on our health and will understand them in detail in our next article (Adverse Health effects of Aspartame).