Aspartame is an artificial sweetener (sometimes labeled as NutraSweet, AminoSweet, Equal, or Spoonful) that is 100 times sweeter than sugar. It was accidentally discovered in 1965 and is currently used in thousands of food products, from places you may not expect to find sweeteners like vitamins to the ubiquitous diet beverages. In 1974 the US Food and Drug Administration first said it was safe to use – its approval process was controversial, involving charges of manipulated test data and collusion, and the initial approval was briefly rescinded before being restored.
How is aspartame harmful?
In spite of its approval by the FDA the controversy over the safety of aspartame has not gone away. Aspartame is a chemical combination of two amino acids and methanol. One of the reasons the chemical is so dangerous is that in your body aspartame can break down into methanol and even formaldehyde, which are toxic.
The methyl toxicity can mimic, among other conditions, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus. Also, the phenylalanine in aspartame can dissociate from the molecule and increase dopamine levels in your brain. This could lead to symptoms of depression because it distorts the serotonin/dopamine balance. It can additionally lead to migraine headaches and brain tumors through a similar mechanism.
Some of the many reported adverse health effects of aspartame:
- Weight Gain
- Heart Palpitations
- Loss of Taste
- Vision Problems
- Memory Loss
Researches have also found aspartame can trigger or worsen some chronic illnesses.
Will aspartame help you lose weight?
The main reason people want an artificial sweetener is to reduce calories to in turn reduce weight gain. So, maybe you’re thinking you’ll improve your health by losing weight, even if there is a risk of harmful effects from aspartame. After all, doesn’t all the marketing indicate these diet products will help you lose weight and be healthy? The exact opposite is true! These chemically-altered products make your body crave carbohydrates, so you want to eat more. It may taste like you are consuming nutrients when you drink diet soda or other artificially-sweetened products, but your brain is not fooled and knows your body needs fuel so you end up needing to eat more.
Some healthy alternatives to artificial sweeteners.
The average American drinks more than 50 gallons of soda annually, a large quantity considering the absolute lack of nutritional value. Not all of this is diet soda, but imagine how much better your body would feel if you replaced this quantity of sugar or aspartame with stevia-, fruit juice-, or honey-sweetened products, or better yet WATER. Whether a beverage or other food product, there are always alternative products with healthier sweeteners.
When a food product is as controversial as aspartame is it can be very difficult and frustrating to figure out who to believe and how to safely feed your family. Remember that simple is best. People survived and thrived for countless generations without food additives and artificial sweeteners. And without such high rates of obesity, diabetes and many of the other ailments we currently face.