As the holiday season kicks off, beginning with the celebration of Thanksgiving, millions of Americans join together with family and friends in homes and restaurants all over the country. On “turkey day” we consume epic portions of traditional favorites, seasonal dishes, and flavorful desserts. And we can be thankful not just for our food – but also to know that everything on our table is safe to eat. This is because our country’s government agencies – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) - determine the safety and protect the quality of what ends up on our plates and in our cups.
One area the FDA oversees is food additives. FDA is required by law to review all new food additives for safety before they can go on the market. This includes low calorie sweeteners (also called sugar substitutes) like aspartame. Low calorie sweeteners, like all other ingredients added to food in the United States, must be safe for consumption or they would not be approved for use by the FDA.
Aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied substances in the human food supply, with more than 200 studies supporting its safety. The safety of aspartame is reinforced by not just government bodies but also leading independent health groups around the globe. Some of the many groups that have made official statements confirming the safety of aspartame include the American Diabetes Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
So at the end of your meal, when the pies appear, and you reach for the sweetener for your coffee or tea to pair with your dessert, be thankful to know that aspartame is a safe way to reduce calories this holiday season. And all year round!
Althea Zanecosky, MS, RD, LDN, is a nutrition communications consultant in Philadelphia, PA. She regularly provides expert counsel to the Aspartame Resource Center.