Series: Should you should think twice with...
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Jan 29, 2015  |  Vote 3    1

Series: Should you should think twice with aspartame?


We have all heard the plethora of reasons why sugar is bad for you and why you should avoid it.

However, while you should always keep your intake of white sugar to a minimum, eating foods or drinking beverages with aspartame in them to maintain some sweetness may not be the best alternative.

This is because aspartame is a chemical product made up of phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, large amounts of methanol can cause devastating medical issues from headaches to blindness to even death. The good news, consuming products with aspartame will not produce enough methanol to cause any side effects. states, "the amounts that result from the breakdown of aspartame is lower than with many “natural” foods. For example, drinking a liter of diet soda would lead to consumption of 55 milligrams (mg) of methanol, as compared to as much as 680 mg of methanol from a liter of fruit juice".

Dozens of studies have been completed on the safety of aspartame. Though people report side effects such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, complications in diabetics, heart palpitations and more - studies done to date have not found any evidence this is the case.

Health Canada, European Food Safety Authority and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have determined that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for general population (including infants, children and pregnant women).

Health Canada has permitted aspartame for use as a food additive in Canada since 1981. Health Canada (similar to the EFSA) has determined the acceptable daily limit for aspartame is 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Considering that a can of Diet Coke contains about 180 mg of aspartame, and the average adult weighs about 70 kilograms (or 154 pounds), a quick mathematical calculation will reveal that you can drink about 16 cans per day without worry. In fact, the EFSA said that aspartame becomes toxic only once you consume 4,000 mg/kg of body weight – or about 1,600 cans of Diet Coke a day.

That is not to say that aspartame is 'good' - it is a synthesized chemical product.

Aspartame should not be consumed by those with the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU), those with advanced liver disease, and pregnant women with hyperphenylalanine (high levels of phenylalanine in blood). People with these conditions have problems with aspartame because they cannot effectively metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine, one of aspartame's components. Brain damage can result when high levels of this amino acid appear in body fluids. [source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services]

Many people use products containing aspartame in an attempt to loose weight. We know that in order to loose weight a person must consume less calories than they burn thereby creating a caloric deficit.

However, an article published by the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine cited several large scale studies which found a positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain.  Experiments have found that a sweet taste, whether delivered by sugar or artificial sweeteners, enhanced human appetite. Foods sweetened with aspartame cause the body to expect the arrival of glucose (sugar) in to the bloodstream.  When the body does not receive an increase in glucose levels, it can start to crave sugar, leading to a desire for sweet foods or increased appetite.

If you decide that aspartame isn’t the way to go, you still have to be extra mindful of it when you go grocery shopping. A surprisingly number of everyday food products contain aspartame including yogurt, cookies and soft drinks, so read the labels before you purchase anything.

If you decide to avoid aspartame but want to avoid excessive sugar - there are alternatives. If you are someone who loves to bake, or has a sweet tooth, you can try using natural sweeteners in food, beverages and baked goods, like natural honey, stevia or dried fruits that have their own sweetness.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid any product that has more than five ingredients listed on the package. The less ingredients listed means the less chemicals, additives and preservatives are in the product you are purchasing.

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(2) Comment

By Sweetener | FEBRUARY 09, 2015 01:01 PM
In terms of weight gain, the paper cited in the article shows that over the last 50 years the population gained weight, and at the same time increased artificial sweetener use. Correlations like this cannot be used to prove cause- for example a study has shown an even stronger correlation between cheese consumption and people who die from being tangled in their bed sheets! An ongoing clinical randomized control study (clinical trial NCT01766700) has actually shown that participants who consume diet soda lost more weight than participants that only drank water, indicating diet soda (containing aspartame) might be useful for people trying to manage weight while still satisfying their sweet tooth.
By Sweetener | FEBRUARY 09, 2015 12:55 PM
The components that make up aspartame (phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol) may sound like scary chemicals but are actually building blocks in the foods you eat everyday including lean protein, fruits and vegetables- so once it is digested in your gut it is like any other food you eat. It’s important to remember that just because something is ‘artificial’ doesn’t make it harmful; some of the most harmful compounds in the world are naturally found in the environment! It’s also important to understand that the sugar found in honey and dried fruit acts the exact same way in your body as table sugar and added sugars- so although you might be getting vitamins and other nutrients in the fruit, it is not cutting any sugar out of your diet.
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