chalkboard with stevia and aspartame written on itWho said sugar wasn’t addictive? In fact, research shows that the average American drinks more than a gallon of soda (soft drink) a week. That works out to be a staggering 56+ gallons a year. Some of these drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (a whole separate story) while those labelled as “diet” drinks usually contain Aspartame, a more dangerous sweetener. Millions of people consume diet drinks thinking that they are better for their health than those sweetened with a more natural form of sugar, unaware of the possible dangers of consuming artificial sweeteners. In fact, instead of helping you lose weight, ‘zero calorie’ drinks may double your risk of obesity by stimulating your appetite and inhibiting your body’s ability to monitor calorie intake.

Although there are other forms of artificial sweeteners, Aspartame is now the predominant one used in ‘low cal’ food and drinks.  Discovered in a lab in 1965, Aspartame is considered by some to have a questionable history, taking 16 years to be approved by the FDA as a sweetener for human consumption. It is worth noting that studies that were funded by the industry found no adverse side effects from consuming Aspartame, whereas 90% of independent studies came up with a range of negative side-effects.

Most of the side-effects reported are neurological and affect the nervous system. Some people report ‘foggy’ thinking, headaches, hallucinations and mood swings after consuming Aspartame. Other complaints are gastrointestinal. In fact, there have been more reports to the FDA for reactions to Aspartame than for all other food additives combined.

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are attractive to those wanting to lose weight because they contain virtually no calories and you only need a very small amount. For those with a sweet tooth reluctant to listen to reason, there are alternatives to artificial sweeteners and HFCS. One is stevia, derived from a plant and much sweeter than regular sugar. Another is Lo han, a sweet African herb, similar to stevia. It is more expensive than stevia and harder to find.

For those people with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels or insulin issues it is best to avoid ALL sweeteners. All sweeteners contribute to a decrease in insulin sensitivity.

Most people are unaware of the dangers of artificial sweeteners to their health. Do some research if you have doubts. The film “Sweet Misery” will enlighten you, and perhaps help change the choices you make next time you feel thirsty.

Health Naturally Magazine has regular articles outlining healthy alternatives and choices to help you get or stay healthy.  This digital publication is found in the Apple App store, readable on iPads and will soon be on iPhones too.