Aspartame consumption and anxiety
Aspartame, or E951, is a molecule composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It has been validated by the Food and Drug Administration in 1981, and is used because of its sweetening power approximately 200 times higher than that of sucrose, without increasing the number of calories. It is found in a large number of foods: soft drinks, cereals, chewing gum, iced tea, fruit juices, nutritional protein drinks, candy, table sweeteners, and in general in many products marked "sugar-free".
The catabolism of aspartame produces aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. These molecules are known to act on the central nervous system. An article recently published in PNAS showed that an administration of aspartame (dose equivalent to less than 15% of the maximum daily consumption for humans) in the water of mice caused anxiety-like behaviors. Moreover, the researchers also showed epigenetic changes linked to aspartame consumption, particularly in the amygdala, a brain area involved in anxiety and fear. Surprisingly, these epigenetic changes were found in the two following offspring generations of the exposed mice.
These results lead us to wonder about the molecular mechanisms involved in the appearance of anxiety-like behaviors related to aspartame consumption. Moreover, the population at risk of developing potential mental health effetcs would potentially be larger than the one initially considered because it could also include the descendants of individuals having consumed this substance...