Aspartame - the silent killer

ASPARTAME - Will it kill you?

Okay. Lets start with a quick anecdote of mine. I know a person who had a friend who got cancer. Recently before she got cancer, she started consuming a rather large ammount of diet coke. When she passed away, her friend was convinced that the diet coke was the cause of the cancer. Wasn't it obvious? "Aspartame". It sounds synthetic and toxic. Might explain why it's so strongly connected with death and terror in most peoples minds. 

I talked about it before. It always seem to be the most "extreme" scenarious that we hear of. Why? People LOVES drama. Drama is the foundation of a good story, and the media knows that, i know that too. - hence the headline. 

Unfortunately, a good story isn't necessarily true, no matter how many people who tells it and no matter how convincing it sounds. I bet there's at least a million people out there who feels very strongly about some belief that they have that has no rational behind it. 

ASPARTAME - Explained 

Not so fast. Even though methanol is poisonous it is not uncommon. 
Diet coke contains around 0,6(600 mg) grams of aspartame per liter. 
10% of this ammount is broken down in to methanol in the small intestine during metabolism.

The remaining aspartame is 50% phenylalaine, and 40% asparctic acid. 

this means that 1 liter of aspartame releases 60 mg. in the body.
For comparison, grape juice and tomato juice contain around 183-200 mg. per liter.

That means 3-4 times as much as diet soda. 

Therefore, the accusation that methanol in diet coke is dangerous, is only legit if you make the same claims for vegetables in general.(That would be silly) 

Almost anything is dangerous in extreme ammounts, heck, even water can kill you - only 6 liters will do. 

This brings me to another point, that i've been excited to cover for a while now. 

Aspartame has only been studied extensively on rats, since it would be reckless, - some might even go as far, saying that killing people with methanol in order to figure the upper limit would be irresponsible. 

For starters i want to break down what aspartame actually is, short and exciting - just like you like it. 

Aspartame is a dipeptid composed by joining the amino acids asparctic acid and phenylalanine . - The names are irrelevant but i have to start somewhere.  
Phenylalaine is an essential amino acid - this means that its crucial to get this amino acid through your diet, since your body can't produce it itself. Aparctic acid however, is not essential, which suprisingly means that your body can produce it itself. 

The take away from this is that these substances are amino acids.

  • Amino acids are derived from proteins.
  • Protein is the building blocks of the body - found in most thing we eat.
  • Most things we eat aren't dangerous, at least not if consumed in reasonable ammounts. 

So now we've gotten so far. Apartame is composed of amino acids, the same kind that it found in protein powder, beef and egg whites, right? 
Well. yeah. However, It gets a bit more complicated, but not too much. 

When aspartame reaches your intestines its broken down in to the 2 amino acids and methanol. 
Methanol is poisonous and can in large quantities result in poisoning and blindness. ->

How much aspartame is "too much"? 

The recommended intake of aspartame is 0,3 grams per kg. bodyweight. 

This means that a grown man weighting 60 kgs. would have to drink more than 4 liters diet coke a day to exceed this limit. 

If you want the math behind it, here it is:  

0,3 mg. aspartame per kg. bw x60 kg.(the weight of the man)=2,4 recommended daily intake. 

2,4/0,6 mg(aspartame content in one liter diet coke) = 4 liter. 

When a limit is established for when a consumption of a substance is potentially dangerous, or have negative outcomes, it is divided by a factor 100 for safety reasons. - We want to be extremely sure that the recommended intake is very far from the dangerous dose. 

This means that in order to get the side effects of aspartame, you would have to consume 100x times more aspartame than recommended. = 400 liters of diet coke. Remember when i said that water can kill you? 

Okay. That was my take on the topic. I'm by no means an expert in molecylar biology. I'm just collecting data and trying to sum it up in an easy and understandable way. Now go enjoy your diet coke, cola zero, pepsi max or whatever excites your taste buds. 


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