If you have diabetes, you know how hard it can be to find a good artificial sweetener. One popular choice is aspartame. If you’re looking for a diabetes-friendly way to satisfy your sweet tooth, aspartame may be just the ticket.

Aspartame is a low calorie sweetener that is around 200 times sweeter than sugar with less than 4 calories per gram. Aspartame is considered safe for people with diabetes to eat.

Aspartame is a white and odorless crystalline molecule. It contains two amino acids which are also found in a variety of foods. These amino acids are L-aspartic acid and L-phenylalanine.

Aspartame is used as an ingredient in many foods, candies, and beverages. It’s also available in packet form. You can find aspartame under several brand names, including Equal, Sugar Twin, and NutraSweet.

Aspartame has been approved for use as a dietary sweetener by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the FDA, there are over 100 studies that indicate aspartame is safe for people to use, with the exception of individuals with a rare hereditary disease known as phenylketonuria (PKU).

Aspartame digests quickly in the gastrointestinal tract. There, it breaks down into three components, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. These components are:

Aspartame has a glycemic index of zero. It does not count as calories or carbohydrates on a diabetes exchange.

The FDA’s established acceptable daily intake (ADI) of aspartame is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This amount is significantly lower — 100 times less — than the quantity of aspartame found to cause health concerns in animal studies.

Aspartame has been widely studied. Current data from multiple studies indicates that aspartame has no impact on blood sugar or insulin levels. Even so, aspartame use is still considered controversial by some medical professionals, who cite the need for more research.

Aspartame has not been found to pose a risk to people with diabetes.

It is, however, important to read the labels on foods that contain aspartame. These foods may have other ingredients that can spike your blood sugar.

One example of this is baked goods that are labeled sugar-free. These types of foods may be sweetened with aspartame, but also contain white flour.

Other foods and beverages containing aspartame, such as diet soda, may also contain chemical additives you may wish to avoid.

Eating a nutritious and balanced diet that is low in simple carbohydrates is crucial for people with diabetes. Eating foods and beverages sweetened with aspartame may help people with diabetes enjoy the taste of sweets without eating foods that adversely affect blood sugar levels.

Brief history of aspartame
  • Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965 by Jim Schlatter, a chemist working on gastric ulcer treatments.
  • In 1981, The FDA approved aspartame’s use in foods such as chewing gum and cereal. It also approved aspartame as a tabletop sweetener.
  • In 1983, the FDA expanded its approval of aspartame to include carbonated beverages, such as diet soda. It also increased its ADI to 50 mg/kg.
  • In 1984, adverse effects of aspartame, such as headache and diarrhea, were analyzed by the CDC. Their findings indicated that these symptoms were too common in the general populace to be associated definitively with aspartame.
  • In 1996, aspartame was approved as a general purpose sweetener by the FDA.
  • Aspartame continued to be studied and analyzed by regulatory agencies worldwide with no adverse effects being found. In 2002, a safety review about aspartame is published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology which concludes that aspartame is safe for people with diabetes, as well as for children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women.

Aspartame is a low calorie, artificial sweetener which has been studied extensively for decades. It has been found to be safe for people with diabetes. Even so, its use remains controversial. Talk to your doctor about your use of aspartame to determine if it’s a good choice for you.