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Aspartame sensitivity? : a double blind randomised crossover study

Sathyapalan, Thozhukat; Thatcher, Natalie J.; Hammersley, Richard; Rigby, Alan S.; Pechlivanis, Alexandros; Gooderham, Nigel J.; Holmes, Elaine; Le Roux, Carel W.; Atkin, Stephen L.; Courts, Fraser


Natalie J. Thatcher

Richard Hammersley

Alexandros Pechlivanis

Nigel J. Gooderham

Elaine Holmes

Carel W. Le Roux

Stephen L. Atkin

Fraser Courts


Heiner K. Berthold


Background Aspartame is a commonly used intense artificial sweetener, being approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose. There have been concerns over aspartame since approval in the 1980s including a large anecdotal database reporting severe symptoms. The objective of this study was to compare the acute symptom effects of aspartame to a control preparation. Methods This was a double-blind randomized cross over study conducted in a clinical research unit in United Kingdom. Forty-eight individual who has self reported sensitivity to aspartame were compared to 48 age and gender matched aspartame non-sensitive individuals. They were given aspartame (100mg)-containing or control snack bars randomly at least 7 days apart. The main outcome measures were acute effects of aspartame measured using repeated ratings of 14 symptoms, biochemistry and metabonomics. Results Aspartame sensitive and non-sensitive participants differed psychologically at baseline in handling feelings and perceived stress. Sensitive participants had higher triglycerides (2.05 ± 1.44 vs. 1.26 ± 0.84mmol/L; p value 0.008) and lower HDL-C (1.16 ± 0.34 vs. 1.35 ± 0.54 mmol/L; p value 0.04), reflected in 1H NMR serum analysis that showed differences in the baseline lipid content between the two groups. Urine metabonomic studies showed no significant differences. None of the rated symptoms differed between aspartame and control bars, or between sensitive and control participants. However, aspartame sensitive participants rated more symptoms particularly in the first test session, whether this was placebo or control. Aspartame and control bars affected GLP-1, GIP, tyrosine and phenylalanine levels equally in both aspartame sensitive and non-sensitive subjects. Conclusion Using a comprehensive battery of psychological tests, biochemistry and state of the art metabonomics there was no evidence of any acute adverse responses to aspartame. This independent study gives reassurance to both regulatory bodies and the public that acute ingestion of aspartame does not have any detectable psychological or metabolic effects in humans.


Sathyapalan, T., Thatcher, N. J., Hammersley, R., Rigby, A. S., Pechlivanis, A., Gooderham, N. J., …Courts, F. (2015). Aspartame sensitivity? : a double blind randomised crossover study. PLoS ONE, 10(3), e0116212.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2014
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2015
Publication Date Mar 18, 2015
Deposit Date May 29, 2015
Journal PloS one
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 3
Pages e0116212
Keywords Aspartame sensitivity
Public URL
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