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3. Aspartame continued...

What the research shows

Dozens of studies in people and animals have tested for effects possibly related to aspartame. The majority of these studies show that things such as headaches, seizures, and mental and emotional problems didn't occur with aspartame more often than with placebo, even at doses many times higher than anyone would likely ever consume. Large epidemiological studies haven't found a link between aspartame and cancer. A study of about 500,000 people, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, compared those who drank beverages containing aspartame with those who didn't. It found that people who drank increasing amounts of beverages containing aspartame did not have a greater risk for lymphomas, leukemias, or brain cancer. Another study looked at data from a large survey done by the National Institutes of Health. The survey included detailed information on 1,888 cases of leukemia or lymphomas and 315 cases of brain cancer. The researchers found no link between aspartame consumption and those cancers.

"For more than three decades, research has found aspartame to be safe, and today it is approved for use in more than 100 countries," says Robert E. Brackett, PhD, spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a lobbying organization in Washington, D.C. "In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed the safety of aspartame 26 times over a period of 23 years, with the most recent confirmation in April 2007."

How to find it on the label

Look for aspartame in the list of ingredients.

4. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

MSG by itself looks like salt or sugar crystals. It is a form of the naturally occurring chemical glutamate. Glutamate doesn't have a flavor of its own, but it enhances other flavors and imparts a savory taste. Tomatoes, soybeans, and seaweed are examples of foods that have a lot of glutamate naturally. Some scientists say that glutamate, also known as "umami," is the fifth essential flavor that the human palate can detect, in addition to sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

Foods that have it

MSG is an additive used in many foods.

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