The effects of aspartame (34 mg/kg/day for 2 weeks) on the cognition, behavior, and monoamine metabolism of 15 children with a history of ADD were evaluated at the Yale University School of Medicine, using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study design. Various measures including Conners Behavior ratings, Children’s Checking Task, Airplane Test, and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test revealed no significant differences between aspartame and placebo. The Multigrade Inventory for Teachers showed a significant increase in activity level following aspartame treatments. Phenylalanine and tyrosine levels in plasma were significantly elevated at 1 and 2 hours after aspartame ingestion. [1]

COMMENT. The authors conclude from this study of 15 ADD children receiving single morning doses before school for 2 weeks that aspartame has no clinically significant effect on behavior and cognition, and does not affect urinary excretion rates of monoamines and metabolites. Studies of aspartame in children with neuropsychiatric problems are limited, but one well controlled evaluation in 10 children with absence seizures has shown that aspartame exacerbates EEG spike-wave discharges [2]. The ingestion of aspartame in children with seizures should be limited or avoided until effects on seizure control are investigated further.(Ped Neur Briefs June 1992;6:46-47). Migraine has been exacerbated by aspartame in controlled studies of adult patients.