Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in many foods and drinks, including diet sodas, low sugar juices, “sugar free” desserts, no-sugar gums and many others. I am certain you have heard countless times from well-meaning friends and relatives that this artificial sweetener is “not good for you”.
The reasons why aspartame (and other artificial sweeteners) have been blasted as “not good for you” include:
- Cancer risk: limited studies in rats have found a potential risk of liver cancer. However, the dosages used that seemingly are correlated with liver cancer in rats are very high and the WHO’s recommendations for “safe” usage in humans far exceeds what people usually ingest.
- By tasting sweet, aspartame may cause people to actually feel hungrier, especially for ingesting carbs and sugar containing foods
- There are some studies that show a potential increase in diabetes in those people ingesting lots of aspartame.
Recently, another “risk” that now has surfaced is the potential association of autism in boys whose mothers drank at least one diet soda a day during their pregnancies as well as breast feeding. The study was performed by the University Of Texas Health Center and included 235 boys that were diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum whose mothers drank at least one diet soda a day. The study found that the risk of autism was 3-3.5X more in women that drank these diet sodas as opposed to women that did not ingest aspartame during their pregnancies and/or during breast feeding stages. The people that published the study went on to state that this did not prove that aspartame was linked with autism for certain, but more studies are needed.
My thoughts on the use of aspartame:
- Obesity is an incredibly serious risk for developing a bunch of different cancers, heart disease, chronic pain syndromes, diabetes, renal failure, blindness, and many other life-threatening diseases. If the use of aspartame allows an obese person to lose weight and keep it off, the risks of the aspartame are far less than the weight-control problem
- Moderation: I do not suggest that people drink 6 packs of diet sodas a day or pour many packets of Splenda into their no-calorie teas. A moderate use of aspartame has not been definitely shown to be harmful, and when you think about it, tens of millions of people use this daily.
- During pregnancies and breast feeding, I believe the less/elimination of any artificial “chemicals”, including aspartame, is the safest approach.
The best drink for anyone, including pregnant ladies, is water. However, for you diet Coke or Pepsi addicts out there (me included), the 1-2 bottles or cans per day is most likely a safe behavior.
Aspartame was released to the public in 1981. Can you guess what the longest running number 1 song on the Billboard charts was that year? The theme of the song holds great relevance to weight control!