With so many diets on the market it is hard to know which, if any, will work for you. Diet foods and drinks are said to be the answer to loosing weight quickly and effectively as they can provide you with nice tasting food without the calories. However, what many manufactures forget to tell you is that the majority of diet foods and beverages contain aspartame, one of the most harmful and deadly artificial sugars around. Aspartame is a chemical that is said to taste like sugar, without the calories, but studies have concluded that aspartame can actually make you fat rather than helping you to lose weight. Also, as studies suggest, it can have adverse side effects on your blood glucose and insulin levels, especially if you are a diabetic.
Aspartame is made up of three chemicals, phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (19%). Over long periods of storage, or when aspartame is heated, it begins to break down into metabolites, one of which is called diketopiperazine (DKP). DKP is known to be toxic to our bodies and should not be consumed where possible as the true effects of it and the other metabolites are still unknown.
Although scientists have known for a while that aspartame can be detrimental to our health and weight loss goals these findings have not been shared with dieters. A study completed in 1986 concluded that when nearly 80,000 women consumed artificial sweeteners within their diet they were more likely to gain weight over time as opposed to those who didn’t. Another study completed in 2010 suggested that artificial sweeteners would not actually help you to lose weight but in fact it was suggested they would help you to gain weight, including visceral fat around your internal organs, thus increasing your risk of heart disease.
Scientists have suggested, from experiments carried out on mice, that exposure to aspartame over your life time, especially for diabetics, can lead to changes in blood glucose parameters and can have adverse impacts in spatial learning. The same study also found that a 50mg dose per kg of body weight of aspartame was found to decrease a diabetic’s insulin sensitivity and wreak havoc with their brain function. This can be extremely detrimental for diabetics as optimal insulin sensitivity is imperative to obtain optimal health.
To back up the above results a study completed in 2007 by the journal Diabetes Care concluded that different macronutrient compositions can have differing effects on plasma glucose and insulin levels when men completed bouts of exercise. The men were compared in five different areas;
- high–glycemic index sucrose meal (455 kcal)
- low–glycemic index fructose meal (455 kcal)
- aspartame meal (358 kcal)
- high-fat/low-carbohydrate meal (455 kcal)
The scientists hypothesized that when consuming a meal containing fructose or aspartame there would be a lower impact on insulin release and glucose response as opposed to when a sucrose-sweetened meal was consumed. Once the study had been completed the scientists realized that their hypothesis was flawed and they found the completely opposite results.
Bringing research up to date the European Commission (EC) has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to re-evaluate aspartame and its ‘true’ effects as there is currently not enough research around aspartame to inform us accurately.
As the side effects of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners become more prevalent manufacturers are working hard to try to find alternatives in order to maintain sales of their products. Manufacturers are trying to find natural alternatives in order to try to protect their consumers from gaining weight and occurring harmful effects on their bodies. Some of the naturally occurring sweetener alternatives they have found are stevia, monk fruit and miracle fruit.
Aspartame has not only been linked to diabetes but many other health problems as well, such as brain tumors, epilepsy, lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. A recent study has also concluded that there can be links between consuming aspartame and conditions such as fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stating that IBS worsened when meals containing artificial sweeteners were consumed.
If you believe that artificial sweeteners may be causing adverse side effects to your body then the best way to find out if this is true is to carry out the elimination challenge. This means that you will need to check all food labels to make sure you are not consuming any foods containing artificial sweeteners. After you have followed an artificial sweetener – free diet for over 2 weeks then slowly reintroduce artificial sweeteners one at a time, for one to three days at a time to see which causes the most adverse effects on your body. If you are able to tolerate the first sweetener then add in another and so on. Side effects of artificial sweeteners may not be seen straight away so do not rush to add another in too soon.
In conclusion the best way to lower your sugar consumption and eat the right way for your body and its nutritional type to help you optimise your health, genetics and biochemistry is to make sure you are consuming limited sugars of all kinds and increase your consumption of high quality fats giving your body the proper fuel it needs to function and ultimately limiting your sugar cravings. If you feel you still cannot combat your sugar cravings then try to use a natural ‘healthy’ option sweetener such as stevia or Lo Han.