Slim and healthy. This is the credo for sugar substitutes. That's why artificial sweeteners have enjoyed great popularity as sugar substitutes since the last century. Modern, body-conscious people use cheaper sugar substitutes such as acsulfame (E 950), aspartame (E 951) and saccharin (E 954) every day. These sweeteners are available directly in supermarkets as powder, liquid sweetener or small tablets, or they are found indirectly in diet foods, chewing gum and soft drinks such as Diet Coke.

With their enormous sweetening power (approx. 200 times stronger than sugar), they sweeten foods without the annoying side effects of sugar such as tooth decay, weight gain and/or diabetes. But how healthy are these substances actually?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considers these sweeteners to be harmless. But the additive aspartame in particular has come under heavy criticism from food researchers and consumer advocates in recent years.

Aspartame a neurotoxin?

Like glutamate, aspartame can interfere with the control mechanisms in the brain. The long-term effects are particularly worrying for children. Regular consumption of drinks containing aspartame can negatively affect the neural development of young people. Test subjects also noticed the so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome when taking aspartame. Shortly after consuming the substance, acute disorders, headaches, dizziness and temporary memory loss occurred. Aspartame is particularly concerning in pregnant women. Regular consumption could damage the brain of the unborn child. (Roberts, 1997)

Risks for pregnant women and children

Aspartame contains the harmful substances asparate and phenylalanine. Asparate is a messenger substance that occurs naturally in the body. Excessive consumption of light drinks, for example, can damage the brain cells. Asparate also makes the blood-brain barrier permeable to substances such as aluminum and impermeable to glucose and can therefore severely impair memory performance and, in severe cases, trigger diseases such as Alzheimer's.

In pregnant women, phenylalanine can accumulate many times over in the placenta and brain of the unborn child. This increases the risk of mental disorders. (Roberts, 1997)

People with a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize the substance adequately. The cause is a genetic defect. Excessively high concentrations in the brain can lead to severe physical and mental developmental delays, so-called phenylpyruvic acid imbecility, especially in unborn children and young people with PKU. (Azoubel, 2007)

Cancer risk from aspartame

The Italian Ramazzini studies (2005) have demonstrated the increased cancer risk of aspartame in multiple experiments. The industry firmly rejects the allegations. In December 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its first full risk assessment on aspartame. The report concluded that the sweetener and its breakdown products were safe for the general population (including infants, children and pregnant women).
Consumer advocates see this assessment by the EFSA as personal links with the industry. Many members of the EFSA committees who considered the sweetener to be harmless are in the service of the lobby association “International Life Science Institute” (ILSI).

Alternative sweeteners

A healthy alternative to synthetic sweeteners are sugar alcohols such as xylitol or erythritol. The credo here is SMART, slim and healthy. Although the healthy sweeteners are more expensive than aspartame and saccharin, maintaining your mental fitness should be worth the additional investment. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in the body and can be optimally utilized and broken down.


Reinaldo Azoubel among others: Effects of aspartame on maternal-fetal an placental weights, length of umbilical cord and fetal liver: a cariometric experimental study : (accessed on July 3, 2016)

Hans Ulrich Grimm: What is ILSI doing with EFSA? The European Food Authority is coming under fire for being industrially biased and trivializing risks : (accessed on July 3, 2016)

Hans Ulrich Grimm: The nutrition lie. How the food industry is driving us crazy. Munich 2011: 87-116.

Unhee Lim et al.: Consumption of aspartame-containing beverages and incidence of hematopoietic and brain malignancies In: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 15, 2006: (accessed on July 3, 2016)

Volker Mraek http: Acesulfame: Unmolested by toilets, sewers and sewage treatment plants. Article from 2011 at Deutschlandfunkt:


Aspartame, fragrances, flavorings, acrylamide: toxic or healthy?

Lecture by Dr. Hermann Kruse from March 4, 2013:

John W. Olney et al.: Increasing brain tumor rates: is there a link to aspartame? In: Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology , 55, 1996, pp. 1115-1123:

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