Which Diet Sodas Do Not Contain Aspartame?

Diet soda without aspartame can be a bit difficult to find.
Image Credit: nirat/iStock/GettyImages

Sometimes you want something a bit more pizazzy than water — like a diet soda. But if you have a rare hereditary disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU), you need to limit your intake of phenylalanine, found in aspartame.

Advertisement

Video of the Day

Fortunately, there are some diet sodas without aspartame.

What Is Aspartame?

Aspartame is a sugar substitute about 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so just a small amount is needed to sweeten foods or beverages.

Advertisement

Although it contains 4 calories per gram — the same number of calories in sugar — far less is needed to achieve sweetness, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. So, it adds negligible calories to food.

It's one of the most popular artificial sweeteners, according to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two amino acids.

Advertisement

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages in 1983, and many other leading global health agencies, including the World Health Organization, Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority approve its use in foods and beverages.

Advertisement

How Much Aspartame Is Safe?

The FDA says the acceptable daily intake for aspartame is 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, per day. This means that a person who weighs 150 pounds can safely take in 3,400 milligrams of the artificial sweetener — or about 19 cans of diet soda — every day.

Aspartame is not safe for some people, though. A hereditary disorder called PKU requires you strictly limit your intake of phenylalanine, one of the components of aspartame. Always choose diet drinks without aspartame if you have this condition.

The amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid are present in natural foods, however, so aspartame isn't the only source. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out that a serving of nonfat milk provides six to nine times more of the amino acid phenylalanine and 13 times more aspartic acid than a drink sweetened with aspartame.

Is Aspartame Unhealthy?

The American Cancer Society notes that some rumors pointing to aspartame causing cancer do exist, but affirms that major health organizations have not found this to be true.

Current evidence shows that low- and no-calorie sweeteners and beverages, including those containing aspartame, are ​not​ associated with an increased risk of cancer in humans, per an April 2019 meta-analysis in ​Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology​.

Although federal agencies still support the safety of taking in aspartame at the level of 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day, recent research brings the safety of the sugar sweetener into question.

A June 2018 paper in ​Nutritional Neuroscience​ found that aspartame has been linked to behavioral and cognitive problems — such as headaches, irritable mood, depression and insomnia. Aspartame acts as a chemical stressor, which can have adverse effects on brain health. The researchers advise that aspartame be approached with caution and that more research about the effects of aspartame on brain health is needed.

A September 2017 review in ​Nutrition Journal​ noted that there are numerous evidence gaps related to the health effects of nonnutritive sweeteners, including aspartame, so more research is necessary to affirm their safety.

Diet Soda Without Aspartame

Reduced and no-sugar versions of drinks provide a way to cut back on sugar without having to give up the beverages you enjoy.

Even though major health organizations haven't come out against aspartame-containing drinks, you may choose to avoid them in an abundance of caution.

From Coca-Cola, for example, Diet Coke with Splenda or Coca-Cola Life are options for diet soda without aspartame. Splenda is an artificial sweetener made from sugar. The chemical structure is altered so that much of it passes through your body undigested and unabsorbed.

Coca-Cola Life is sweetened with a blend of cane sugar and stevia leaf extract. Stevia is a naturally sweet plant that can be used to offer noncaloric sweetening. Coca-Cola Life has 35 percent fewer calories than traditional Coke and less added sugar.

Aspartame is still present in the Coca-Cola products Diet Coke, Fanta Zero, Fresca and Coke Zero. Note that other diet sodas from Pepsi, including Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Mug root beer, contain aspartame.

Other soda manufacturers offer aspartame-free diet sodas that can satisfy your desire for a bubbly drink without the artificial sweetener and still no calories. Zevia, for example, uses stevia leaf extract to sweeten all of their soda products. Flavors include traditional cola, but also fruit options such as black cherry and orange as well as ginger ale, root beer and cream varieties.

Hansen's diet sodas are sweetened with sucralose and ace-K and contain no aspartame. Hansen's flavors include cola, vanilla, pomegranate, strawberry and ginger ale, among others.

Diet Sodas With Aspartame

Diet Sodas Without Aspartame

Coke Zero Sugar

Diet Coke With Splenda

Diet Coke

Coca-Cola Life

Diet Pepsi

Zevia

Pepsi Zero Sugar

Hansen's

Diet Barq’s

Sprite Zero

Fanta Zero

Seagram’s Diet Ginger Ale

Mello Yello Zero

Diet Mountain Dew

Pibb Zero

Diet Mug

Advertisement

references