Have you wondered: is aspartame an amino acid? It’s a complicated question because the artificial sweetener is produced from two amino acids. Fun Fact: Aspartame is about 200x sweetener versus sugar. It’s often used in sugar-free fruit juices and diet sodas. While the sweetener has 0g of sugar and Keto-friendly that doesn’t make it healthy. As always, it’s important to take a closer look and find out what scientific studies say about the artificial sweetener. This will help to determine whether or not you should consider adding it to your iced coffee and green tea smoothies. As always, it’s important to consider how food additives will affect your short and long-term health.
Many of us have used aspartame without knowing it. That’s because the powdered form is known by brand names like Equal and NutraSweet. The sweetener was accidentally “discovered” in the 1960s by a chemist developing a new ulcer drug. Aspartame is super-sweet and easy to produce, which helps to explain why it’s one of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market. That said, since it’s an artificial sweetener, it’s important to know issues like how it’s made, possible side-effects, and health risks you could experience by consuming it.
What Exactly Is an Amino Acid?
These are known as the “building blocks of proteins.” Aminos are connected in chains to form all kinds of life. It involves a 2-step process. The first step is to form peptides, which then form proteins.
There are 20 main amino acids in the human body. The kinds of amino acids that form affect the shape of different proteins. The main types are essential aminos (EAAs) and non-essential aminos (NEAAs). The difference is based on whether they’re made by the body (NEAAs) or from food/supplements (EAAs).
There’s also something called “conditionally essential” aminos (CEAAs). The body usually helps to make enough of these amino acids. However, there are factors like illness and stress that prevent that from happening. In that case, you have to boost your intake through food/supplements.
Around half of the 11 NEAAS are conditionally essential. It’s important to know about them. They’re more likely to cause deficiencies than the other NEAAs since you won’t always have enough of them for the body’s functions.
The amino acid blend known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) is some of the best-known aminos. They’re popular among athletes/weightlifters for applications like muscle building/repairing. BCAAs might also help with other functions like delayed fatigue and appetite control.
However, the body needs to get enough of all 20 aminos. That’s true whether you get them from the body, food, or supplements. In general, food is a better source than supplements. That’s because it’s a direct source of nutrients.
When consuming aminos through food the two main sources are “complete” and “incomplete” proteins. This is related to whether you get all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs). These are complete proteins like meat, fish, and soybeans.
You can also consume combinations of incomplete proteins to form complete proteins including:
- Beans & Rice
- Whole wheat bread & peanut butter
- Bean soup & crackers
- Whole wheat pita & hummus
- Whole wheat noodles & peas
Is Aspartame an Amino Acid?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that’s made from two amino acids. However, it’s not technically an amino acid itself. The keyword is “artificial.” For example, in recent years, low-carb diets have been trending.
Aspartame is low-carb at about 1g of carbs in one packet. However, this doesn’t make it 100% healthier than white sugar, for example. That’s because it’s still an artificial sweetener that’s made in a lab and doesn’t exist in the natural world.
Aspartame isn’t Paleo-friendly due to the food processing it undergoes. This diet ditches all foods that were produced after the birth of agriculture like grains, beans, and dairy. It also doesn’t allow highly-processed foods like artificial sweeteners.
Interestingly, a chemist found Aspartame by accident in 1965. The scientist was researching to develop anti-ulcer medicine. When he licked his fingers to improve his grip he noticed how sweet Aspartame was.
This artificial sweetener is made of 2 amino acids. They include phenylalanine and aspartic acid. When people consume aspartame the body breaks it down into two amino acids. While these amino acids are found naturally the sweetener itself is synthetic.
Aspartame is super-sweet and in fact, is 200x sweeter versus sugar. So you only have to consume a small amount to make foods as sweet as sugar. Aspartame even has the same number of calories/gram: 4.
Only a small amount of artificial sweetener is needed for foods/beverages. You can find this substance in brand names like NutraSweet and Equal. These products might have other ingredients but aspartame is the main ingredient.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aspartame. The FDA has given a green light for less than 10 low/no-calorie sweeteners. It approved aspartame as a food additive nearly four decades ago in 1981.
NutraSweet: Nutrition Facts
Here’s what you get from 1 packet:
This amount provides 4 calories, which is quite low and just 0.2% of a 2,000-calorie diet. It’s worth noting that these are empty calories and made from an artificial sweetener. The figure is also as high as regular sugar.
You get just 1g of protein from the NutraSweet. It’s quite a low amount. However, since it’s a sweetener you probably shouldn’t expect to be sky-high in protein. It’s important to make sure you’re getting at least 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight.
Vitamins and Minerals
You get a small amount of calcium, potassium, and iron. There’s under 1mg of each in a NutraSweet packet. It’s not a significant source of any vitamins/minerals. However, since it’s a sweetener that’s OK.
There’s also 0g of sodium in this sweetener. That’s a plus if you have health conditions like high blood pressure, which requires a low-sodium diet. It’s critical in that case to make sure you consume a small amount of sodium. Since there’s none in this product it won’t be an issue.
There’s 0g of both in a packet of Aspartame-based NutraSweet. This is a plus if you’re on a low-carb diet like Keto and Atkins. For example, both programs allow 50g of carbs per day. Since the carb count is super-low for this artificial sweetener you won’t have to worry about wrecking your low-carb diet.
The bottom line is that aspartame is relatively healthy on paper. It’s received a thumbs-up from the FDA and is low in calories/carbs/fat. However, it’s worth noting that this product is still an artificial sweetener.
There are some question marks about the long-term effects of such products even though they meet the nutritional requirements of diets like Keto and Atkins after learning is aspartame an amino acid.