It is very tempting when trying to lose weight to switch to ’sugar free’ but what that means is ‘artificial sweetener’ and although aspartame has changed its name a number of times, the problem remains the same, as do the health risks.
We are now very aware of the problems of a too high sugar consumption, but artificial sweeteners are no substitute health wise, or to help you lose weight .
What’s the problem with diet drinks?
Well for starters it is very hard to get away from artificial sweeteners, just look at the soft drinks aisle in your supermarket. The majority are now labelled ’sugar free’ and aspartame is used in more than 6,000 products worldwide, particularly diet drinks.
Aspartame was first approved for use in 1981 and as a general artificial sweetener in 1996 and controversy has followed it since then. However, unlike other artificial sweeteners that move through the body without being digested, aspartame can be metabolized by your body and has a number of health effects that are concerning experts.
Health risks of diet drinks
There are a number of health issues, and potential side effects, that can be experienced if you are a regular consumer of such drinks. You may not have associated your headaches, for instance, with aspartame but it could be the case for you.
In humans the methyl alcohol from aspartame travels through your blood vessels into sensitive areas, such as your brain, that is loaded with ADH, which converts methanol to formaldehyde.
The most well-known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems such as misty/blurred vision but there are others less common such as:
- ear buzzing
- gastrointestinal problems
- memory lapses
- shooting pains in the extremities
- behavioural disturbances
If you are regularly having aspartame then this has been linked to abdominal obesity – which you may have thought was just menopause weight gain – and high blood pressure and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. If your moods seem worse than usual than this may also be linked to aspartame as one study had to be abandoned because of the severity of reactions to aspartame in people with a history of depression.
Aspartame may even affect your serotonin levels, which may not only play a role in its link to depression but also in other health conditions, like low libido, which again is common at menopause.
Why won’t it help me lose wight?
Aspartame has been found to increase hunger feelings and is associated with an increased motivation to eat – just what you don’t need on a diet. If you think you are helping yourself to lose weight by giving up sugar, the reverse is actually the case. This is because real sugar plays a part in appetite suppression, but this is not the case with artificial sweeteners.
Anything that tastes sweet enhances appetite, no matter what makes the food sweet. So not only is your appetite increased, as it is with sugar, but there’s no signal telling you to stop eating.
Studies have also shown that not only does aspartame cause weight gain, it causes greater weight gain than a diet with the same calorie intake, but no aspartame.
Worried about fat storage in your body?
Aspartame contains the chemicals phenylalanine and aspartate, both of which increase fat storage. They interfere with insulin and leptin, which control how fat is handled, whether it’s stored, how it’s stored, where it’s stored, and how it’s used.
If your fat metabolism is damaged you will gain weight and when aspartame is in liquid form, as in diet drinks, it breaks down into methyl alcohol, or methanol, which is then converted into formaldehyde. All animals – except human beings – are able to convert toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid and this inability of humans is why there are so many health conditions associated with aspartame.
Some weight gain at menopause is usually inevitable as the body starts to produce oestrogen in the fat cells, but the way to maintain a healthy weight is through those old favourites a healthy diet and exercise.
Oestrogen dominance can result in weight gain and bloating, so good hormone balance is essential, but eliminating ’sugar free’ items from your diet will definitely make a difference too.