Aspartame: a waste product of e. Coli

ImageUntil recently I was on the fence about Diet Coke. I used to dislike the taste of the sweetener, but then having gotten used to it, I started to crave the taste of it, the metallic sensation of a cold diet coke hitting the back of my throat, and the caffeinated buzz…

But it didn’t sit well with me that I didn’t know what aspartame, the artificial sweetener, was. I never saw any evidence that the sweetener was bad for you, but I figured if it’s artificial, it can’t be that good for you and I’ve mostly stopped drinking it.

So I was surprised when I recently read that the European patent for aspartame is available online, UPI reported yesterday.

What is Aspartame?

Aspartame is made from the waste products of genetically modified E. coli bacteria. This was reported apparently back in 1999 that “World’s top sweetener is made with GM bacteria”. I struggled to navigate the patent, but helps break through the jargon.

Genetically modified E. coli are cultivated. The E. coli bacteria produce a waste product that contains the “aspartic acid-phenylalanine amino acid” segment which is collected, treated with alcohol and methanol to produce the sweetener.

Is Aspartame bad for you?

There doesn’t seem to be any evidence as of yet, and it passes the bar of our food standard organizations. So we don’t know, really…

Aspartame and the microbiome

How our diet affects our microbiome, our ecosystem of bacteria that live in our guts and in our bodies is all very new science. We are only just starting to understand how the food we eat affects our bacteria communities, but there are strong links. Breast milk, for example, contains certain carbohydrates that humans can’t digest, but our gut’s bacteria can. We are only just starting to understand how consuming probiotics, helpful bacteria, can help our digestion and reduce the risk or symptoms of gut disorders.

And recently, aspartame was identified as having a particular effect on the human microbiome. Whether it’s a postitive or negative effect is still to be determined, but in a study moniroing the diet of 98 people, two dietary items, aspartame and red wine stood out as having a noticible effect on the human microbiome. The paper, Linking Long-Term Dietary Patterns with Gut Microbial Enterotypes, says there is a correlation with a change in the microbiome, but can’t prove whether it’s a positive or negative reaction, but it’s a reaction.

So I’m not sure what do to with all this information, however I think it’s worth knowing that Aspartame is a result of e Coli bacteria byproduct and that it does have some kind of impact on our inner microbial community. Until we know more, I think I’ll stick to natural sugars.


One thought on “Aspartame: a waste product of e. Coli

  1. Pingback: Useful Products Engineered into E. coli “Poop” (Thank Goodness) | Small Organisms Big Benefits

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