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Evidence-Based Analysis of Aspartame Research
Date:6/2/2009

Questions Put to Rest

CHICAGO, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- A just-published research review concludes that, media speculation aside, using aspartame as a sweetener has no effect on appetite or food intake. The same evaluation reaffirmed what regulators and health authorities have said many times before: aspartame is not associated with adverse effects for the population at large.

"The conclusions should not be a surprise to health professionals, as they reflect what both science and common sense have told us for years," said Brendan Naulty, president of Ajinomoto North America. "Aspartame is a safe and potentially valuable tool for helping consumers manage their calories."

The evaluation, posted on the ADA Evidence Analysis Library web site, answers several recently raised questions concerning aspartame. For example:

  • Some have claimed that low calorie sweeteners like aspartame could have a "rebound" effect that leads people to have more of an appetite or to eat more food. The analysis found, "There is good evidence that aspartame does not affect appetite or food intake." This consensus statement was given a "grade 1," the highest grade in the EAL scale.
  • Others have implied, despite the implausibility, that low calorie sweeteners actually "make" people gain weight. The ADA expert work group looked at studies in adults and concluded that using aspartame in the context of a reduced calorie diet does not affect weight and may be associated with increased weight loss. This body of research also was given a grade 1.
  • For years, misinformation about negative effects of aspartame has proliferated on the Internet. The committee evaluated peer-reviewed research from the scientific literature on this topic and concluded, "Aspartame consumption is not associated with adverse effects in the general population." Once again, the expert work group found that the support for this statement is "grade 1."

In 2008, the ADA began this in-depth analysis of a list of questions about aspartame using its "evidence analysis" approach, which systematically and rigorously evaluates relevant human studies that fall within specific, pre-determined parameters. Factors such as size and quality of each study and potential bias are taken into account. After each study is analyzed by registered dietitians (RD), a separate expert group of RD's applies that research to the questions at hand. A conclusion statement is formulated for each question, and a "grade" is assigned to each statement indicating the strength of the evidence supporting that conclusion.*

"Given the mixed messages consumers receive about low calorie sweeteners and weight management, the aspartame review is quite timely," said Lisa Carlson, a Chicago-based registered dietitian. "It adds meaningful, science-based information that will help registered dietitians respond to questions from consumers," she added.

ADA managed all aspects of the process, including selection of research analysts and expert work group members. The evaluation was funded jointly by ADA and Ajinomoto. For access to the report, and to review all of the questions along with access to summaries of the research that was considered for each, go to: www.aboutaspartame.com. From there, visitors may link to the complete analysis and details about the process.

Note to Authors:

*Conclusion Statements are assigned a grade by an expert work group based on the systematic analysis and evaluation of the supporting research evidence. Grade I is good; grade II, fair; grade III, limited; grade IV signifies expert opinion only; and grade V indicates that a grade is not assignable because there is no evidence to support or refute the conclusion. Recommendations are also assigned a rating by an expert work group based on the grade of the supporting evidence and the balance of benefit versus harm. Recommendation ratings are Strong, Fair, Weak, Consensus or Insufficient Evidence.

The Aspartame Resource Center is supported by Ajinomoto Food Ingredients LLC, a leading global manufacturer of aspartame, as a service to consumers and health professionals. The Web site, www.aboutaspartame.com, contains a wide range of research, news articles and educational tools about aspartame.


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SOURCE Ajinomoto North America
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