Tag Archives: artificial sweetener

Aspartame

Everyone has an opinion on what you should or should not eat when you are pregnant, it seems.  Recently, a man at the grocery store told me I should not buy a certain light yogurt since “it contains aspartame which is toxic for the baby, you know”.  I tried to pleasantly smile and show him where it says on the front of the package that the yogurt contains no aspartame.  This made me stop and think more about aspartame.

Aspartame is a very common artificial sweetener.  Commercially, it is known as Nutrasweet and Equal.  It can be found in some sugar free products as well.  It is not found in products that have been heated to a high temperature however, since it is not very heat stable.

Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than regular sugar.  It is made by combining two amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine.  When we eat aspartame, it is broken down to these two amino acids and methanol.  The amino acids are clearly safe to have in our bodies, unless you have a special medical condition.  Methanol can be toxic in high amounts, but the amount generated in the breakdown in the regular consumption of aspartame is less than the amount of methanol created by digesting some natural foods.

Research to this point has not shown any adverse health effects from consuming aspartame, although it has been accused of causing cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ADD, and many other issues.  While research is ongoing, it is considered safe to consume in moderation.

The FDA has a set a recommended upper limit for consuming aspartame at 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.  Few people would ever consume that much.  For example, a 200 lb person could consumer over 4500 mg of aspartame in a day.  That would be 23 cans of diet soda or 129 packets of tabletop sweetener.  Hopefully, you can see there are health consequences of consuming those amounts of these products beyond any concerns about aspartame.

What is my opinion?  I don’t like putting a lot of fake ingredients into my body, for sure.  However, I also know there are detrimental effects of consuming excessive sugar – such as excessive weight gain which can lead to diabetes and a multitude of other health problems.  I drink diet soda, on the rare occasions I drink soda.  I also see the benefit of sugar free products for those with diabetes.  As always, I think moderation is key.

Happy eating!

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Artificial Sweeteners

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In the midst of moving, my husband sent me this article about artificial sweeteners, a topic loaded with confusion and mixed information.  My brother-in-law and I debate consumption of artificial sweeteners occasionally.  Last week at a girls night, I listened in pain while several diabetic women discussed how they don’t want cancer from artificial sweeteners and drink regular soda rather than diet.

Why is there so much confusion?  Artificial sweeteners are relatively new ingredients in our diets.  Humans have been eating grain, meats, fruits, vegetables, and many seasonings for hundreds of years.  Artificial sweeteners have only been studied for the last 40 years or so, and new sweeteners are being developed all the time.  It takes time to study the long-term effects of these items and to determine actual consumption rates.  As the linked article points out, these ingredients were developed to replace sugar, but some people are consuming these in larger amounts than if they just were consuming sugar, adding to the confusion.

So should you consume artificial sweeteners?  The best answer I can give is maybe.  Here are the facts as I understand them.  We do know that consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and a host of medical problems.  Current data suggests that consuming artificial sweeteners as a replacement for sugars in moderate amounts is safe.

Bottom line:  I don’t suggest taking up drinking diet soda or consuming large amounts of artificial sweeteners.  But if you have the choice between diet and regular, I would choose diet.  Either way, drinking lots of diet soda is a bad idea for many reasons, beyond the sweetener.

I hope that helps.  Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

 

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