The effect of aspartame on epilepsy was studied in 10 children with previously untreated generalized absence seizures using a double blind challenge of 40 mg/kg aspartame as a single dose at the Children’s Hospital, Halifax, Canada. Ambulatory cassette recording of the EEG and quantification of numbers and length of spike wave discharges on 2 consecutive days showed that the number of seconds spent in spike wave discharge per hour of recording was significantly increased following aspartame compared with the control day when the children received sucrose. [1]

COMMENT. Anecdotal claims that aspartame may exacerbate epilepsy appear to have scientific validity based on this EEG double blind controlled study in 10 children with absence seizures.

In support of the FDA decision to clear aspartame for general consumption, excepting phenylketonuric children, a study of 126 apparently healthy children and adolescents showed that there were no clinically significant differences documented between the children taking aspartame and those taking sucrose for a 13 week period, regardless of age between 2 and 21 years. Aspartame appeared to be a safe sweetening agent for use by healthy children aged 2 or older [2]. However, studies of aspartame in children with neuropsychiatric problems are limited, and adequate data are not available to establish its safety and freedom from adverse effects. Until more specific investigations are completed to determine the effects of aspartame on seizure control it might be advisable to limit or avoid the ingestion of aspartame products in children with seizures and particularly poorly controlled absence seizures (Camfield et al. 1992). See Millichap JG. [3] for a review of the effects of aspartame on diseases of the nervous system in children.