What is it about?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener added to thousands of foods and drinks. We report that aspartame consumption via drinking water by male mice at doses equivalent to less than 10% of the FDA-recommended maximum daily intake value for humans daily for 12-weeks produced significant deficits in learning and memory. The learning and memory deficits were transmitted from the aspartame-consuming males to their offspring demonstrating heritability of aspartame-associated cognitive deficits. The heritability pattern suggests epigenetic changes in the germ cells as a possible mechanism.

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Why is it important?

Recently, the World Health Organization expressed concerns about potential carcinogenicity of the artificial sweetener aspartame. However, aspartame's potential adverse effects on the brain and behavior are less well scrutinized. We show that aspartame consumption produces cognitive deficits that are heritable via the male line of descent. FDA maintains that aspartame is safe when consumed within the FDA limits. However, FDA's decision presumably is based on evaluation of aspartame’s safety in the directly exposed individuals (as adults or in utero) and not on their descendants. Our findings highlight the need for careful analysis by the regulatory agencies of the potential effects of artificial sweeteners on germ cells and behavioral traits in descendants of the directly-exposed individuals along maternal and paternal lineages.


Aspartame produces cognitive deficits not only in those who consume it but also in their offspring. Traditionally heritable effects are considered within the context of maternal influences. Here we show that heritability of aspartame's adverse mental health effects can occur via the paternal line of descent. Regulatory agencies do not appear to consider heritability of the effects of artificial sweeteners along the paternal lineage in their safety evaluation protocols. Our findings call for a revision of the current regulatory protocols.

Pradeep Bhide
Florida State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Learning and memory deficits produced by aspartame are heritable via the paternal lineage, Scientific Reports, August 2023, Springer Science + Business Media,
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-41213-2.
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