April 6, 2020
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The big debate of artificial sweeteners have
never been as big as it is today. Artificial
sweeteners have been deemed dangerous for
your health after heavy fear-mongering and
links to problems ranging from headaches to
cancer. And the one artificial sweetener that
has taken the most assault is aspartame.
The people that have already heard of aspartame
generally have a bad opinion of aspartame.
For those of you that never heard of it, well
if you ever drank a diet soda, you most certainly
have consumed aspartame as well. So what exactly
is so wrong with it?
Let’s look at what happens to aspartame within
the body. Aspartame is broken down to phenylalanine,
aspartic acid, and methanol. Outside of people
with a rare genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria,
phenylalanine and aspartic acid are generally
safe to consume, since they’re amino acids
that exist in pretty much any protein source.
But the big bad wolf of these three is methanol.
Methanol can definitely be toxic for your
body in very high amounts because your body
converts methanol into a proven dangerous
compound known as formaldehyde. Many anti-aspartame
folks will tell you to avoid aspartame exactly
for this reason. But the studies unfortunately
doesn’t back it up. Reason being is because
the amount of methanol from aspartame consumption,
is, well, extremely small. And at such small
doses, the added methanol into the body simply
doesn’t do anything to the body. In fact,
your body produces formaldehyde every single
day in amounts thousands of times greater
than you can get from aspartame. It’s just
simply not enough. And on top of that, one
study has subjects consuming upwards 200 milligrams
of aspartame per kilogram of bodyweight, which
is 40 times greater than the average American
daily consumption. Yet, still nothing. No
methanol poisoning nor changes in formaldehyde
levels in the body.
As far as causing cancer, well, the American
Cancer Society themselves have looked at studies
containing as much 500,000 adults and found
that there’s simply no strong link between
cancer and aspartame.
Another cause for concern is causing weight
gain. People drink diet sodas so they can
lose weight, but wouldn’t it be pretty darn…
crappy if that same diet soda actually make
them gain weight? Well, good thing is that
it doesn’t. No causative studies has ever
shown artificial sweeteners causing weight
gain. One 6-month long study even showed that
substituting regulars soda with diet soda
is as effective as substituting with water
in terms of losing weight. And in case you’re
wondering, aspartame does not spike insulin
levels in healthy individuals as well as diabetics.
But… you’ve probably seen people that drink
diet soda and notice they’re… pretty big.
Well, the real problem might be that they
just under-estimate how many calories they’re
consuming. By drinking diet soda, they think
the zero calories means they can eat MORE,
and chances are they do and eat way too much
more. This explains the so-called “link” between
obesity and diet soda when in fact it’s not
the diet soda causing the weight gain, but
more so bad eating habits associated with
the people that do drink diet soda. So it’s
the person’s habits that link to obesity and
NOT the diet soda.
In terms of headaches, the studies are quite
inconclusive. Trying to link headaches to
anything is already a challenge, since many
times even a placebo can have high returns
in headache correlations. Headache studies
on aspartame share very similar correlations
as a placebo, so it’s hard to say for sure,
and you’re best just using your own judgment
in this matter.
So the studies are there, and it’s clear that
the fear of artificial sweeteners, especially
aspartame, just doesn’t hold up. The only
concern that you can definitely have for diet
sodas is that, just like regular soda, it’s
gonna rot your teeth.
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Randall Smitham