Politics of Food

Published on October 7th, 2013 | by Matthew Lovitt

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How Aspartame Affects your Health

Diet Soda, Aspartame, Weight Gain and Ill Health

is soda the enemy?

There are many lifestyle changes that we make which are supposed to help us lose weight and get healthy. We cut out snacks or skip meals altogether in order to save a few calories here and there, or spend countless hours in the gym trying to burn off that extra layer of love that lines our midsection. Some of us even commit to absurd “cleanses” that require us to drink nothing but some crazy mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper to help rid the body of toxins that are poisoning our body. Unfortunately, as well intentioned as we may be when adopting such practices, many of the supposedly healthy tricks we play on our bodies don’t actually improve health. In fact, a few actually cause a significant amount of damage and can encourage ill health and disease. The list of insane things we do in order to get trim and healthy goes on for miles, but one specific practice that millions of people participate in daily is quite possibly the worst and can have extremely severe consequences.

The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners

Switching to diet soda from the “full flavored” variety may be one of the most harmful habits that one can develop in order to lose weight and gain health. Aspartame, the primary sweetener found in diet soft drinks and about 6,000 other products worldwide, is about two hundred times sweeter than sugar, which allows food manufacturers to advertise products containing it as a calorie free food. Not only has the consumption of aspartame been linked to the development of brain tumors and cancer, many people have phenylketonuria, which means they are allergic to phenylalanine (like aspartame) and when substances containing these amino acids are consumed it may cause mental retardation and seizures. Further, fake sweeteners like aspartame have been linked to obesity.

According to Dr. Qing Yang of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University and author of a study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine:

  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame do not activate food reward pathways in the brain and have no effect on appetite.
  • Aspartame actually INCREASES hunger more than glucose.
  • The perception that aspartame-laced foods are harmless encourages greater consumption.

Unfortunately, the FDA maintains that aspartame in neither carcinogenic, neurotoxic nor has any other adverse effect on health when consumed in amounts customary to the Standard American Diet (SAD).

What does this all mean?

Foods containing aspartame are probably best left out of our health and wellness routine. There is certainly nothing wrong with occasionally enjoying a diet soda on special occasions, but making them a dietary staple should be avoided. Other foods that may need to be reconsidered include: yogurt, chewing gum, cooking sauces, chips, crackers, powdered drink mixes, sugar-free products, and cereals (and maybe even milk!). However, the only real way to know whether your favorite foods are safe or if they contain this toxic substance is to read the ingredients list.

Image courtesy of Hang the Bankers


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About the Author

A holistic nutritionist in the making, Matthew spends the majority of his time trying to unravel the beautifully complex relationship between food, health and spiritual well-being. While this may sound like a somewhat glamorous pursuit, his daily journey towards enlightenment often begins and ends in front of a computer or textbook with the occasional retreat to the kitchen to rejuvenate his mind and body. When not enthralled in his quest to greater understanding, Matthew can be found attempting some insane test of physical endurance on the highways of Arizona, eating peanut butter and banana bagel sandwiches in his pajamas, or watching cartoons with his amazing fiance and puppy. If you're interested in joining Matthew on his journey to health and wellness, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@veggiematthew), Facebook or at his blog.



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