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Aspartame and Fibromyalgia

author image Clay McNight
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.
Aspartame and Fibromyalgia
Aspartame tablets and tea leaves on a tablets. Photo Credit Heike Rau/iStock/Getty Images

Aspartame is a calorie-free artificial sweetener whose safety has long been a subject of controversy. While numerous studies have shown the sugar substitute to be safe for human consumption, a few reported cases have found potential links between aspartame consumption and the chronic condition fibromyalgia.

Safety of Aspartame

Aspartame is one of six artificial sweeteners that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved. The FDA has thoroughly reviewed each of these artificial sweeteners for safety, notes the National Cancer Institute. These sweeteners possess a sweetening power many times greater than sugar. The safety testing of aspartame has gone well beyond the required level for food additives, according to a 2002 article published in "Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology." The authors of the article concluded that "it is clear that aspartame is safe and there are no unresolved questions regarding safety."

Fibromyalgia Basics

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic muscle pain and fatigue. Individuals with fibromyalgia have tender areas on their bodies. Additional symptoms of fibromyalgia can include headaches, difficulty sleeping, morning stiffness, memory problems and tingling sensations in the hands or feet. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it is most common in middle-aged women, says MedlinePlus. While no cure exists for fibromyalgia, patients can often manage symptoms with medication, sufficient sleep, a healthy diet and exercise.

Evidence of an Aspartame-Fibromyalgia Link

While there has been no study determining that aspartame causes or contributes to fibromyalgia, one 2010 article published in "Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology" reported on two stand-alone cases of individuals whose fibromyalgia symptoms vanished after they ceased aspartame consumption. In one case, a 50-year-old woman suffering from fibromyalgia for more than 10 years went on a vacation where she did not consume aspartame. During the vacation, her symptoms were nonexistent. After the incident, aspartame was completely removed from her diet, and she saw a complete regression of her fibromyalgia symptoms. A 43-year-old man, who had a similar experience, also saw a complete regression of his fibromyalgia symptoms, without recurrence, upon ceasing aspartame consumption.

Eliminating Aspartame for Fibromyalgia Patients

Because the cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, the mechanism by which these individuals saw symptom regression can only be speculated on. The authors of the article published in "Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology" believe that for those suffering from fibromyalgia, it is well worth the trouble to eliminate aspartame from their diets. The potential benefit of this dietary modification could be drastic for those suffering from this chronic, disabling disease, whereas the only downside is a small change in diet. The authors recommend that health practitioners ask whether their patients consume aspartame, as it may be a simple resolution to this mysterious disease, in certain cases.

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