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Aspartame Linked to Fibromyalgia

Nov 12, 2014

The artificial sweetener aspartame has been linked to the disorder fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and sleep, memory and mood issues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals.

Aspartame is a popular sweetening ingredient in many food products and is the sweetener in NutraSweet and Equal, but its safety as a food additive continues to be questioned, reports. Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and aspartame is on the list of food additives “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Some research suggests aspartame increases the risk of cancer, birth defects and other diseases. But according to a National Cancer Institute fact sheet, “There is no clear evidence that the artificial sweeteners available commercially in the United States are associated with cancer risk in humans.” European food regulators set a lower acceptable daily intake (ADI) than does the FDA.

There is conflicting research about the health effects of artificial sweeteners. A study from researchers at the Department of Rheumatology at Dijon University Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine at Burgundy University in France found aspartame-induced fibromyalgia was causing chronic pain in patients, according to EmaxHealth. For some, pain and fibromyalgia symptoms disappeared completely once patients eliminated aspartame from their diets. The French researchers say more studies are needed, but meanwhile, doctors should ask fibromyalgia patients if they consume aspartame and if they do, the doctor should recommend eliminating it. The researchers believe this approach is worth trying without additional studies since there is no risk to the patient in making this change in diet.

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