Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that has been used for decades as a way to lower one’s intake of added sugars while still providing satisfaction from enjoying something sweet. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, and as such only a small amount of the sweetener is needed to match the sweetness provided by sugar. In tabletop packets and prepared foods and beverages, aspartame is often blended with other sweeteners or food components to minimize bitter flavors and enhance overall taste.
Aspartame consists of two amino acids—aspartic acid and phenylalanine. When ingested, aspartame is broken down into these amino acids for use in protein synthesis and metabolism. In addition to aspartic acid and phenylalanine, aspartame digestion also yields a small amount of methanol, a compound that is naturally found in foods like fruits and vegetables and their juices. The amount of methanol resulting from consuming an aspartame-sweetened beverage is about five to six times less than that resulting from the same volume of tomato juice.