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Aspartame (also known as NutraSweet or Equal) is an artificial sweetener found in many foods and drinks. It’s calorie-free, making it very attractive to people trying to lose weight or keep their sugar intake low. However, several reasons why using products containing this chemical may not be a good idea for everyone, but is Aspartame vegan?
No, far from it! Aspartame is known for beeing tested on animals, however many people think that veganism is about only about a diet, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a lifestyle where you say no to animal cruelty by not using products that has been tested on animals and avoid places that uses animals for entertainment.
So what does this mean in terms of Aspartame? Animal testing was required before the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) allowed its use as a food additive. So anybody who has ethical issues with using animals for both food and “scientific research” needs to avoid this kind of sweetener.
Aspartame is found in many popular brands of chewing gum, breakfast cereals, low-fat yogurts, and fruit drinks.
It’s commonly used as a substitute for sugar, and because it tastes so much sweeter than sugar, only minimal amounts are needed to achieve the same level of sweetness.
Of course, it’s not just Aspartame that provides the sweetness.
Other ingredients like dextrose (glucose) and maltodextrin are often added to products containing Aspartame because they significantly improve its taste.
This means that these cereal bars or “low-fat” yogurts can be labeled as having reduced sugar,” even though they may contain the same amount of Aspartame as standard products.
How Is Aspartame Made?
Aspartame was first discovered by accident in 1965 by James Schlatter.
He was working for GD Searle and trying to produce a new anti-ulcer drug, using an enzyme from a pig’s stomach as his starting point.
But when he mixed aspartic acid and phenylalanine (two naturally occurring amino acids) that had been extracted from the protein of the pig’s stomach with methanol (wood alcohol).
He noticed that one of his test tubes started to froth and fizz!
This turned out to be the first-ever Aspartame.
He decided to call it NutraSweet.
Aspartame Animal Testing
As you’ve probably already guessed, although Aspartame itself was discovered by accident, nobody in their right mind would ever have decided to conduct animal experiments with this chemical unless they had an excellent idea that it was likely to be safe for humans.
So these tests were conducted.
Initially on rats and then followed up with two types of long-term mouse studies which lasted 18 months and two years respectively before the FDA approved Aspartame for use as a food additive.
But is there anybody who believes that anything tested on animals will automatically turn out to be safe for humans?
Well, I hope not!
And in any case, even if all of the scientific research points to the fact that Aspartame is safe for humans, we still need to look at whether or not it’s ethical to use animals in this way.
Health Issues Connected to Aspartame
Although many doctors and scientists have been warning us for years that excessive consumption of processed foods containing Aspartame may cause neurological problems, people are generally still more concerned about the potential effects on their weight rather than their health.
As it happens, the whole idea of “diet” products is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how our bodies process calories.
The bottom line is that weight gain often occurs when we consume more calories through food and drink than we expend through movement.
So if you eat or drink something sweet but then try to offset it by exercising yourself to death, this will not ultimately solve your weight problem.
I believe that we make far too much of a fuss about what we put in our mouths.
And I know for sure (because I’m someone who’s been through it) that if you feel strongly about something, then trying to convince other people to adopt your point of view is often an uphill struggle.
So rather than trying to claim that Aspartame is “good” or “bad,” or it’s vegan, my feeling is that the only thing we should ask ourselves when we consider whether or not to eat processed foods containing this chemical is:
Do I want to be part of the problem, or do I want to be part of the solution?