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The Sweet Poison

I have a dear friend who visited Toronto from Rochester this Easter weekend. He is a very health conscious person who exercises and makes sure he leads a healthy lifestyle. However, I could not help to notice he ordered “diet” coke during his visit and he went for “Splenda” when we went to Aroma coffee shop. He made me realize even the people who are health conscious might think diet coke is better than regular coke.

Next time you walk in the aisles of your local grocery store, look around and you will see that there is diet version of almost every single produce available now. You know what is even more astonishing? The number of weight loss patients I see daily who believe they have a great diet because they are using low fat, zero calorie foods.

There are many different aspects of this industry that I can tap into and discuss with you. However, today I want to talk about Aspartame. In medical field we usually call high blood pressure the “silent killer” and I strongly believe that aspartame deserves to have the same title.

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener and you can find it in many diet products. Multimedia marketing had engrained in people’s mind that aspartame is safe and it is way better than regular sugar. Aspartame is marketed under names such as “NutraSweet”, “Equal” and “Spoonful”.


Why is there less calories in aspartame compare to regular sugar?
This is because aspartame is about 100-200 times sweeter than regular sugar. Therefore, you use less to achieve the equal amount of sweetness compare to regular sugar.


FDA reports that close 75% of food additive adverse reaction reports are from aspartame. It means people show less adverse reaction to genetically modified foods compare to aspartame. Shocking right?

You will be amazed how many times I hear in my practice that “Dr. Z. I am gaining weight and I only drink diet coke , or my migraine is intolerable although my diet is clean”. Guess what? Migraine and weight gain are common side effects of aspartame.


Let me tell you how aspartame works in your body:
Once I had a Biomedical engineering student as a patient, who refused to cut out his pop/soda to address his migraine. He argued, “ Aspartame is almost natural Dr. Z. It is made of aspartic acid and phenylalanine, which are both amino acids that benefit your body”. This argument is partially valid. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid (excitatory neurotransmitter) are beneficial for your body but they get absorbed in a very high amount through aspartame. This would cause your brain cells to get excited to the point that they would die. Also, phenylalanine depletes your body from serotonin (happy hormone) and dopamine that may lead to depression. Aspartame also has methanol (wood alcohol) that converts to formaldehyde in your body which has been linked to breast and prostate cancer. Animals have a specific digestive mechanism that break down methanol to a safe by-product. That is why animal testings that all manufacturers market safety of aspartame through, are flawed.


OK! This is where I have to be honest. Many people argue that the dose of methanol found in aspartame is little and they believe it is even less than what is found in one banana. I argue that anything man-made should not be compared with natural fruits and vegetables.

In the study done in 2014 by Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, researchers found that artificial sweeteners increased blood sugar significantly in patients who used them on a regular basis compare to people who never touched artificial sweeteners. They also found that mice fed with artificial sweeteners gain as much weight as mice fed with regular sugar. Therefore, maybe it is time for us to reconsider prescribing artificial sweeteners to diabetic and weight loss patients.

Bottom Line is:

The FDA claims aspartame is safe but has set an acceptable daily intake of no more than 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. (Europe: 40 mg per kilogram of body weight)

In my practice I have seen symptoms like insomnia, dizziness, joint pain, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety and weight gain associated with Aspartame.

In Summary, I would err on side of caution when it comes to Aspartame. Remember, this is by no means a medical blog post or an advice. It is merely my personal opinion about aspartame.

Dr. Z
References:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13793.html
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/aspartame

Author resumes no liability for incorrect information or any action reader decides to take based on the information on this blog post. This blog post is only author’s personal input on the topic and by no means entails any medical advice.