A recent Florida State University College of Medicine study questions the safety of aspartame, a non-sugar, low-calorie sweetener added to many foods and beverages sold in the U.S.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that even FDA-approved levels of aspartame consumption could lead to memory and learning deficits in offspring.
The study observed three groups of male mice over a 16-week period, according to a report from Fox News.
One group consumed 15% of the FDA’s maximum recommended daily intake of aspartame, equivalent to four 8-ounce sodas, according to the report.
A second cohort of mice were fed 7% of the recommended maximum intake, or two eight-ounce sodas, daily, the report noted, adding a third control group consumed only water.
The studied mice were tested in mazes at four-week intervals and the mice that drank only water were able to find the “safe” box to escape from the maze much faster than those that consumed aspartame.
The aspartame-consuming groups eventually completed the task but took “much longer” to do so and sometimes needed extra help, according to the report.
Pradeep Bhide is one of the study authors, and the Jim and Betty Ann Rodgers eminent scholar chair of developmental neuroscience in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.
“There is some overlap in terms of learning, memory and anxiety, in the sense that often there is an emotional component to our learning,” Bhide said.
“The second thing we noticed here, unlike the anxiety (research) — this went only [in] one generation,” he continued.
“It was not seen in the grandchildren, only in the children [of the male mice], which is another line of support that these kinds of transmissions occur due to epigenetic changes in the sperm.”
Bhide suggested that the FDA should take a “closer, multi-generational perspective on the effects of aspartame.”
“The results of this study suggest that even low-level consumption of aspartame may contribute to memory and learning problems that may be hereditary across generations,” said Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor.
Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicology physician not involved in the study, also noted that more studies are needed to conclusively establish the connection between aspartame and brain damage.
Calorie Control Council President Robert Rankin defended the use of aspartame.
“Not only should the results of this study not be extended to humans nor the general population, but there is also no link between low- and no-calorie sweeteners and cognitive impairments, such as memory loss and learning deficiencies in humans,” Rankin remarked.
“Further, the reported findings of this study are in contradiction to the totality of evidence and the numerous global health organizations that have regarded aspartame as safe, following rigorous assessments.”