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It is not a perfectly zero calorie sugar but is an artificial sweetener that is being used in soft drinks. In the gastrointestinal tract, it can be digested into 50% of phenylalanine, 40% of aspartate and 10% of methanol. It can also be degraded into its constituents when exposed to heat during transportation, or heated beverage and foods, during which it is decomposed into D-phenylalanine, D-aspartate, and methanol.
This study was carried out in Wistar Albino rats. Rats were divided into three groups, each with six; saline-treated control group, Methotrexate-treated group and Methotrexate-treated plus aspartame administered group. Aspartame was administered orally for 3 months in the dose of 75 mg/kg body weight.
Researchers found that aspartame administered rats showed a significant increase in immobilization and fecal bolus and decreased ambulation of central and Peripheral Square as compared to the control. While Methotrexate-treated plus aspartame administered group of rats showed a decreased rearing and grooming as compared to the control and Methotrexate-treated rats.
Defecation pellets in the aspartame-treated group were used as a sign of fearfulness since emotional subjects are likely to defecate in the stressed situation resulting from the emotional-induced parasympathetic activity. The locomotory and emotional behavior of these mice were measured based on how much time they spent to pass through the “open arm” maze and the number of “open arm” entry in the maze they made
In the previous study carried out by the same researchers, it was found out that, long-term aspartame administration causes an increase in the level of corticosterol in the plasma revealing aspartame as a chemical stressor. Elevated levels of plasma corticosterol along with the disturbed behavioral activation in the previous study, therefore, justifies this new study.
Reference: Biomedicine & Preventive Nutrition (Effect of long-term aspartame (artificial sweetener) on anxiety, locomotor activity and emotionality behavior in Wistar Albino rats)
Article doi: 10.1016/j.bionut.2013.04.002