Aspartame allergy, intolerance and side effects

Sweeteners include sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners that create a sweet taste in food. Artificial sweeteners can be several hundred times sweeter than sugar, but they have almost no caloric value. This includes aspartame. It replaces sugar in many products that contain reduced energy value. Insulin is not needed for its breakdown in the body, so it is used in products for diabetics. But what if someone has aspartame intolerance that causes allergy and side effects?

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What is aspartame? 

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener, low in calories, that is used as a substitute for sugar. It is an excellent way to lower one’s sugar intake and calories while still enjoying sweet-tasting beverages and foods. Aspartame’s concentration of sweetness is 200 times sweeter than sugar’s, which means that just a tiny amount of the sweetener is needed to match the sweetness provided by sugar. 

What is an allergy to aspartame? 

An allergy to aspartame is the body’s adverse reaction to this substance that happens with some people that consume it. Some people are completely fine consuming aspartame, but it can cause a very negative reaction in others who have aspartame intolerance. 

Although the FDA has approved aspartame as a substance that is safe for human consumption, the body sometimes mistakes the chemical as harmful. As a result of this conclusion that the body makes, it creates various chemicals that attack the aspartame in an effort to destroy it, which causes common side effects of an allergy. 

What are aspartame allergy symptoms?  

The majority of allergic reaction symptoms develop just a few minutes after consuming aspartame. Some of the issues that can appear as the symptoms of an allergic reaction to aspartame can include: 

Skin reactions

The most common sign that the allergic reaction is happening will be shown on the skin, mostly in the form of hives, which can form anywhere on your body.

Aspartame allergy hives are characterized by a rash that is itchy and causes welts to form in clusters. During the length of the allergic reaction, hives can move from one part of your body to another for no reason, and they can also change shapes and sizes. 

Hives are usually harmless, and they typically go away within a few hours unless they form in your throat or inner ear, which will require medical attention and urgent treatment. 

You can deal with this condition by applying hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation and swelling, as well as reduce itching, which will relieve the discomfort. It is also possible to develop eczema or general skin inflammation from an allergy to aspartame in some cases. 

Respiratory issues

After just a few minutes of ingesting aspartame, the respiratory system can be affected and feel the consequences. Common side effects include:

  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling of the throat
  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain

Along with the respiratory system, the sinus cavity can also become congested due to aspartame being ingested, leading to further complications. Sinus congestion can cause postnasal drip, sinus headaches, facial pressure, and sneezing. 

If you happen to develop the sensation of a lump in your throat along with facial swelling after eating aspartame, make sure to seek and get immediate medical attention and advice because you might be experiencing a severe allergic reaction. 

Gastrointestinal problems

An allergic reaction to aspartame will also affect the gastrointestinal system is in the majority of cases. During the allergic reaction to aspartame or any other allergen, your body produces histamine in the soft tissue of your intestines, causing swelling. Gastrointestinal symptoms should subside after the allergenic substance (in this case, aspartame) is expelled from your body. 

What foods contain aspartame?

Over 6000 dietary products contain aspartame at different concentrations. Some of the foods that commonly include aspartame are:

  • Soft drinks
  • Frozen desserts
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Chewable multivitamins
  • Yogurt
  • Ice-cream
  • Orange juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Candies
  • Fat-free skim milk
  • Medications and other pharmaceuticals

What is the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of aspartame?

The acceptable daily intake of aspartame varies among individuals considering their body mass. 40mg/kg of body weight is the ADI by the European Food Safety while the United States Food and Drug Administration set it to be 50mg/kg of body weight.

Is aspartame safe to use?

There are speculations that aspartame and its ingredients consumed in combination with foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) may result in increased plasma concentrations of aspartame and glutamate which may increase the risk of brain injury.

Nevertheless, numerous metabolic studies have shown that it is impossible for a person to consume a sufficient amount of aspartame to raise the concentration of aspartame and glutamate in plasma, even when combined with MSG and to cause toxicity[1].

Furthermore, in the late 1970s, research was conducted that suggested that aspartame could be linked to brain tumors [1]. Research has shown that the results obtained are dose-dependent on aspartame, ie there is an association between the dose of aspartame and brain tumors. Notwithstanding claims from the late 1970s, regulatory agencies and expert commissions including the FAD (USA), Health protection branch (Canada), and the Committee on Toxicity (UK) studied this information according to standard and internationally accepted criteria and concluded that aspartame is not carcinogenic.

What are aspartame side effects?

The health dangers of intolerance and allergy to aspartame do not stop once the allergic reaction is taken care of. They are widespread, and aspartame can affect multiple systems inside the body, causing several side effects. 

Additional health dangers of aspartame consumption can include aspartame addiction, persistent craving for sweets, stomach ulcers, birth defects, aggression, hyperactive behavior in children, depression.


Is there an allergy test for aspartame poisoning?

Unfortunately, there is no way to know or test whether you are allergic to aspartame that does not include consuming it and waiting to see if any allergy symptoms appear. If you consume aspartame and experience the above-mentioned and explained symptoms, it means that you are allergic to aspartame and should seek immediate medical attention. On the other hand, if aspartame consumption goes over fine and smoothly, you are good to go. 

How deadly is aspartame allergy?

Just like with any other allergy, the level of reaction will depend on many different factors, but mainly on the person experiencing the allergic reaction. In severe cases, aspartame poisoning can be severe and even life-threatening.


Can aspartame allergy trigger other illnesses? 

Unfortunately, aspartame allergy and aspartame poisoning can be a trigger for many subtle diseases, which can sometimes be very difficult to detect, even under the best conditions and in the hands of the most skilled physicians. Some of the diseases that can be caused by aspartame allergy include thyroid disorders, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Lupus, post-polio syndrome, Lyme disease, Meniere’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Can aspartame trigger migraine? 

There is no association between headache and aspartame that could be concluded in numerous randomized, double-blind studies, where placebo groups of people existed who were convinced that aspartame was causing their headaches.

Studies conducted in individuals who were convinced that aspartame causes their headaches, along with studies in healthy adults and heterozygotes with fetoketonuria, show that there is no effect of aspartame on clinical seizures or on electroencephalography[1].


Aspartame is most often found in diet carbonated drinks, sweets, chewing gum and certain vitamin ingredients. It is known in the European Union under the code E951. It is also used as a substitute for sugar in diabetics.

In the last twenty years, aspartame has been used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Extensive
initial research done with aspartame shows the safety of aspartame. There are also recent studies proving that there is no association between aspartame and brain tumors.

Any substance which we take into the body in excessive doses is harmful to the body and our health, including aspartame. In high doses, the ingredients of aspartame can cause various side effects and reactions, but when taken in moderate doses can not disrupt physiological functions of the human body unless you are allergic to it.

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