Researchers from Florida State University found that those who regularly consume the artificial sweetener aspartame could experience learning and memory problems – and their children could be affected as well.
According to the study, published in Scientific Reports, the offspring of male mice who consumed aspartame at levels lower than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems safe exhibited spatial learning and memory deficits.
Previous research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a link between aspartame consumption and anxiety in mice. And the findings extended up to two generations.
“Unlike the anxiety (research), this went only one generation. It was not seen in the grandchildren, only in the children [of the male mice], which is another line of support that these kinds of transmissions occur due to epigenetic changes in the sperm,” said co-author Pradeep Bhide, chair of developmental neuroscience at Florida State University College of Medicine.
“This is a cognitive function that is distinct from the anxiety behavior, so the effects of aspartame are much more widespread than the previous paper had suggested,” said Bhide.
For the new 16-week study researchers gave mice only water daily, water with 7% of the FDA’s recommended maximum intake of aspartame (the equivalent of two 8-ounce diet sodas) or water with 15% aspartame (four 8-ounce diet sodas). When tested at four, eight and 12-weeks in a maze, the mice who drank only water found a ‘safe’ escape box quickly, while those who ingested aspartame took much longer to accomplish the task.
The researchers point out that the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines list the potential association between artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer, but not the potential link to decreased cognitive abilities.
After two reviews of the available evidence on aspartame, WHO recently classified the sugar substitute commonly used in soft drinks as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Bhide suggests the “FDA takes a closer, multi-generational perspective on the effects of aspartame.”
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