Artificial sweetener aspartame linked to anxiety

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A new study finds that the consumption of aspartame, a widely used artificial sweetener, produces anxiety-like behavior in mice, along with epigenetic changes in the amygdala.

These changes persisted for up to two subsequent generations. The study’s findings point to follow-up research regarding aspartame and anxiety in humans.

Aspartame is a widely consumed artificial sweetener found in thousands of drinks and food products globally. A great deal of research has investigated its safety and effects.

A new study from researchers at Florida State University investigates the potential effect of aspartame on anxiety.

The researchers found that mice that consumed aspartame began exhibiting anxiety-like behavior afterward and experienced changes in the expression of genes in the amygdala. The amygdala is a part of the brain associated with regulating anxiety and fear.

The researchers found that the drug diazepam could successfully alleviate anxiety. The study also found that changes in the amygdala persisted for up to two subsequent generations through males, as did the effectiveness of diazepam in relieving anxiety. The study appears in the journal PNAS.

Aspartame: Things to know According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source, aspartame is around 200 times sweeter than sucrose or table sugar. Aspartame does contain some calories but because it is so much sweeter than table sugar, consumers are likely to use less of it.

Aspartame was invented accidentallyTrusted Source in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, who licked his fingers while working on a medication for ulcers, and discovered his compound’s exceptional sweetness. After being approved as a food additive, commercial production of aspartame — and its use in diet products — began in 1981.

According to the new study’s authors, annual production of aspartame is 3,000 to 5,000 metric tons worldwide. In the United States, aspartame is marketed as Equal, Nutrasweet, and Sugar Twin.

While it is also an ingredient in many food products, aspartame is often consumed in diet sodas. These include Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Dr. Pepper, and other beverages produced by their companies.

A 2017 study found that 25.1% of children and 41.4% of adults in the U.S. reported using low calorie sweeteners. The FDA recommends a daily intake of aspartame of no greater than 50 milligrams for each kilogram of body weight.