Is consuming aspartame really as bad as some people say it is (some say cancerous)? Or is it perfectly safe for consumption?
These are two very opposite ends of the spectrum. But the answer lies in the middle of these two extremes and in this article we’re going to get to the truth about this popular artificial sweetener.
The History Of Aspartame
In 1965 a chemist named James Schlatter was working on a drug to treat ulcers. In the process, he contaminated his finger with a white substance.
Soon after this James Schlatter was reading a book and while licking his finger to turn the page, he stumbled upon the sweet substance that we now call aspartame.
What Is Aspartame?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is made up of 2 essential amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
Both of these amino acids are naturally occurring substances whereas aspartame is not.
Aspartame is essentially a calorie-free artificial sweetener and is found in:
- Diet drinks such as diet coke
- Sugarless candy
- Sugar-free ice cream and jelly
- Reduced-calorie fruit juice
What Science Says
Aspartame was found to cause cancer in rats, but no human trial has shown a link to cancer, or any other disease.
The study on rats used extremely high doses of aspartame and it would be extremely difficult/ impossible for a human to consume such high doses of aspartame.
The doses that were given to the rats were equal to you or I drinking 8 to 2,083 cans of diet coke every day.
The regulatory agencies came to the conclusion that aspartame for the most part is safe for humans. But is banned from being allowed in baked goods as it might be unstable at high temperatures.
The Acceptable Daily Intake
The acceptable daily intake (ADI) for aspartame which was set by the food and drug administration (FDA) is 22.7mg per pound of body weight per day.
So for a 180-pound male, he would need to limit his aspartame intake to 4,086mg (or 4 grams) per day.
A can of diet coke contains 180mg of aspartame.
So this would mean that in this case, the 180-pound male would need to drink 23 cans of diet coke to surpass the FDA’s recommendation.
You could drink 22 cans of diet coke and still be within the safety limits of the FDA’s recommendation.
I’m not saying that you should drink 22 cans of Diet Coke. I’m just proving to you that you need to consume a lot of aspartame to surpass the range of safe consumption.
Most of your fluid intake should come from water. But if you’d like to enjoy the odd diet drink, that’s okay. Aspartame won’t kill you.
- Aspartame can help curb your sweet tooth when you’re on a diet by helping you enjoy that sweet taste without consuming lots of calories by eating sugar.
- Individuals with diabetes can enjoy diet drinks without the spike in their blood sugar (which is what would happen if they consumed the full sugar alternative).
- Diet drinks can also reduce fat and weight gain by helping you reduce your caloric intake. Because diet drinks are pretty much zero calories.
- Aspartame is 200x sweeter than sugar and may desensitise your palate to naturally occurring foods like fruit that isn’t as sweet but is much healthier and contains important micronutrients.
- For example when you consume a beverage that is 200x sweeter than sugar (like a diet drink) that apple won’t taste as sweet in comparison and won’t be as satisfying.
- Aspartame may cause Diarrhoea and headaches in some individuals. If this happens to you. Aspartame may not be your best choice.
- Long term use of aspartame may cause systemic inflammation and may cause undesirable effects on healthy gut bacteria.
Should You Swap The Diet Coke For A Full Sugar Coke?
Because diet coke is essentially calorie-free compared to full sugar coke. This might give you the impression that you can drink as many diet beverages as you want.
But as you now know when looking at the research this may not be the best for your health in the long run.
I think that a perfectly viable strategy is to just limit yourself to one full-sugar beverage and then stop drinking the sodas from that point on.
Partly because you can easily accumulate and over-consume calories by drinking lots of full-sugar drinks.
This is because there are roughly 140 calories in a can of a full-sugar soda drink like coke. And if you drink 2 or 3 of these then it can be extremely easy to accumulate 280-420 calories.
And for this reason, it would be smart to stop drinking full-sugar sodas after 1 drink. otherwise, you’ll just be drinking too many calories which is nowhere near as filling as eating your calories.
If you don’t track your caloric intake. These additional calories from sugar could result in fat gain over time.
Limiting yourself to just 1 soda is a good rule of thumb because most of your fluid intake should come from water. Not sodas.
Should You Swap Out Aspartame For Natural Sweeteners?
As you now know, aspartame is for the most part is very safe. But if you’re still worried about the negatives that long term use of aspartame may cause.
Then simply swap out aspartame sweeteners such as Nutrasweet for a natural sweetener like stevia.
Stevia is a very popular natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana.
This plant originates from South America. And stevia is essentially a zero-calorie sweetener that has several sweet compounds although the primary ones are stevioside and rebaudiosid. These compounds are several hundred times sweeter than sugar.
So with stevia, you get an extremely sweet taste but very few calories to go along with it.
Making it the ideal natural sweetener.
The Bottom Line On Is Aspartame Bad For You?
- Aspartame is clearly not as bad as some people make it out to be. Especially when consumed in moderation.
- Although the evidence suggests that consuming lots of artificial sweeteners over time may not be ideal for your health.
- But it’s safe to say that consuming the odd diet coke in moderation is perfectly fine.
Thanks for reading. If you need any extra help send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you asap.