Does aspartame (Equal/NutraSweet) causes memory loss?

Several studies have raised the concern that taking this artificial sweetener long-term might cause memory problems (and others). The results are mixed.

We find studies that show it causes and doesn't cause memory problems in rats. The recent studies show that it doesn't have any effect on a person's memory.

For example, here are a small sample of research studies:

  • A study done in rats showed that taking this artificial sweetener for 3 to 4 months did cause some memory problems and an increase in receptors in the brain. (Christain, 2004).
  • A current study done in human red blood cells showed that low doses of this artificial sweetener did not affect the cells but higher and toxic doses did. The researchers concluded that these high or toxic doses could cause learning and memory problems. (Tsakiris, 2006)
  • One study in 10 healthy volunteers showed no difference in side effects or mental or memory performances compared to the placebo (sugar pill) group (Lapierre, 1990).
  • Another study showed that very high doses of it did not have any effect on memory tasks performed by rats. (Tilson, 1991).

Looking over these and other results, it seems that the risk of getting memory problem from taking aspartame could be possible but not likely. However, if you consume lots of it over long periods of time, anything is possible.

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Why not try stevia, a natural sweetener instead? It is natural and 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has zero calories and a clean sweet taste. It has been in use in Japan for over 20 years (and many other countries) and finally received the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status in the United States in December 2008.

Related topics that may be of interest to you

ReferencesFDA website

Revised: November 12, 2009