Of all the artificial sweeteners, aspartame is the probably the granddaddy of them all. Found in thousands of products, including Equal®, aspartame has given a name for itself by being one of the more popular sweeteners.
Aspartame is the combination of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and a methyl group (which is a carbon attached to three hydrogens) and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When aspartame is consumed, phenylalanine and aspartic acid are separated and used in the body as if they had come from any other protein source. The methyl group, which is also a common component of many foods, is eventually converted to carbon dioxide and disposed of.
Aspartame is FDA approved with an ADI of 50mg/kg body weight. Meaning a person who weighs 160lbs can consume around 20 diet sodas to reach the ADI. This isn’t recommended of course!
Then why is a warning on aspartame products that reads: PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE on it? Some individuals are born with a disease called Phenylketonuria (PKU) where phenylalanine can’t be disposed of in the body, causing a build up to be dangerous and toxic. Now don’t go running to the doctor declaring you need to be tested! All newborns are tested for PKU so you should already know.