What is Equal?
Equal is a low calorie sweetener that has been in the market in Australia and around the world for over 30 years. Equal uses a unique combination of ingredients to ensure it has a great sugar-like taste and does not leave the bitter aftertaste commonly associated with some sweeteners. Aspartame is the primary sweetening ingredient used in Equal.
Additional ingredients are added to Equal to make the very concentrated sweetener easier to dissolve and enhance the flavour of the food and drink. All ingredients are approved food additives that can be safely added to food and beverages.
What is aspartame?
Aspartame is a potent sweetener. It is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose), so only small amounts are needed to make foods and beverages equally sweet. The amounts used are so small that aspartame provides almost no energy (calories or kilojoules). Because of its excellent taste profile, it has become one of the leading low-calorie sweeteners around the world and is the primary ingredient in Equal.
Is aspartame safe?
Yes. Aspartame is made from two amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. When we consume foods or drinks containing aspartame, the sweetener is broken down to its component parts, which are treated in exactly the same way as if they had come from the proteins in meat, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products, soy-based alternatives, nuts or seeds. Aspartame brings nothing new to the diet. Its safety is supported by more than 500 studies conducted over four decades and confirmed by local (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) and numerous international bodies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA, the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) – now the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – in Europe, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). It has been on the market for more than 30 years.
Is there any truth to the negative information about aspartame I see on the Internet or in the media?
No. Unfortunately, urban myths about aspartame continue to be circulated over the Internet. Negative allegations that aspartame may be associated with numerous ailments are based on poor quality science. A large number of high quality studies have shown that there is no link between aspartame and the reports of adverse health effects.
What products contain aspartame and how can I tell?
Aspartame is used in carbonated soft drinks, powdered soft drinks, puddings, gelatines (e.g., jelly), frozen desserts, yogurt, hot cocoa mixes, teas, breath mints, chewing gum and other foods, as well as some vitamin and cold preparations. To see if these products contain aspartame, simply look for the word “aspartame” (or food additive code number 951) in the ingredient list.
Who can use Equal?
People can enjoy products sweetened with Equal as part of a healthy balanced diet. However, it is important to keep in mind that children, particularly young children, need sufficient energy (and other nutrients) for growth and development. In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women need to consume adequate energy (and other nutrients) to nourish their growing foetus or infant and should consult with a physician and/or Accredited Practicing / Registered dietitian about their nutritional needs and follow their recommendations.
But what about aspartame’s components? Why do I see "contains phenylalanine" on labels of products containing aspartame?
Phenylalanine is one of the components of aspartame, and is released when aspartame is digested. It is an essential amino acid necessary for growth and development and is obtained from protein containing foods and drinks. Some people suffer a rare inherited disorder, phenylketonuria (PKU), which means their ability to metabolise phenylalanine is seriously impaired. In many countries (including Australia and New Zealand), therefore, it is a legal requirement to state “contains phenylalanine” on aspartame containing product labels for the information of people with PKU.
How is aspartame handled by the body?
Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, which are found naturally in protein containing foods and drinks, including meats, fish, eggs and dairy products, soy-based alternatives, nuts and seeds. Your body handles the amino acids from aspartame in exactly the same way as it does when they come from these other sources.
Is Equal safe for those with diabetes?
Yes. People with diabetes are among the most frequent consumers of Equal. It can assist in managing calories / kilojoules, which is an issue for many people with diabetes, and it can also reduce the carbohydrate content of the diet which may assist with the management of blood glucose (sugar) levels. Equal range products can help provide people with diabetes with wider food choices and the pleasure of sweet taste while helping to reduce their effect on blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Does Aspartame cause allergies or food intolerance?
Studies investigating aspartame as a potential cause of food allergies or intolerance have not found any consistent effects.
Does Equal help people lose weight?
High quality clinical studies show that people who replace foods and beverages high in added sugars with intense-sweetened alternatives (e.g., those containing aspartame), decrease their body weight, body fat and waist circumference.
To find more information please visit the following websites:
- Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ): http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/aspartame/Pages/default.aspx
- Dietitians Association of Australia: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/frequently-asked-questions/are-artificial-sweeteners-safe-to-eat/
- New Zealand Food Safety - Media Release:
- World Health Organisation: http://www.who.int/en/[ii]
- Facts about the safety of aspartame from leading health organizations. Aspartame Reference Sheet (when user clicks on the title opens the document)
- International Sweeteners Association – Aspartame –It’s components and Safety
- Food safety Authority of Ireland – Aspartame Fact Sheet
- European Food Safety Authority: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/corporate_publications/files/factsheetaspartame.pdf
- Low calorie sweeteners and body weight: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24944060