How to Avoid Aspartame
Aspartame is almost synonymous with the term “artificial sweetener. This synthetic Sugar substitute is rated as being 200 times as sweet as table sugar with less than a fraction of the caloric value. This has made aspartame a key additive in many diet, low calorie, low carb and sugar free foods. It’s quite likely that you’ll encounter aspartame in your food or someone courses of a day. That is because aspartame is generally a popular way to add a sweet kick to processed foods, even if they aren’t aimed at the typical “diet” consumer.
What is Aspartame?
Aspartame is made up of 2 amino acids. These protein building blocks are phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Aspartic acid is a non-essential amino acid produced naturally in the body and useful for cellular function. Phenylalanine on the other hand is essential and needs to be obtained exogenously through a sufficient diet.
Where do you get it?
Aspartame is available as a standalone sweetener, sold under the brand NutraSweet and Equal. These sweetener brands are primary marketed at the hyperglycemia/diabetic market. As mentioned, aspartame is commonly added to diet foods like sugar free sodas, ice creams and sugar free confectionery. This is where they see their most common use and consumption. Aspartame may be synonymous with Diabetes management and weight loss, but is also used by anyone keen on kicking sugar for a healthier lifestyle. On the issue of health however, aspartame hasn’t gone without controversy. It has been touted as a risk to long term health, often being associate with the increased risk of cancer. This might be attributed to the production of methanol during the break down process of aspartame.
Methanol is an alcohol that naturally occurs in many foods you already eat such as fruits and vegetables. It is also commonly occurring in fermented alcoholic beverages. Methanol is converted in the liver by a process called oxidation into a chemical called formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known neurotoxin, shown to increase risk of conditions such as ALS. It is also carcinogenic (cancer causing). With this in mind, it’s necessary to point out that the amount of aspartame derived methanol required to achieve toxic levels of eventual formaldehyde is astronomically higher than what most people are willing to consume.
There are many claims in support of the negative health qualities of aspartame consumption, however, most of these claims and theories are yet to be substantiated by any convincing scientific findings.
When looking at the potential negative impact of aspartame on your health, you need to look beyond the isolated molecule itself, and rather look at how it is used, and the foods it is used in.
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Aspartame Base Foods. Stay Away From These.
While diet sodas may promise all the great taste of regular beverages with added sugar, there are a few things to take note of.
Although it is true that the lack of sugar, and other nutrients for that matter, makes diet sodas perfect for insulin response, blood glucose and calorie intake management, they aren’t cut-and-dry good for your health. Carbonated drinks contain many chemicals that actually do more harm than good.
For example, some acids in fizzy drinks such as phosphoric acid can diminish the health of your teeth. With regular consumption, phosphoric acid leads to erosion of your enamel, the hard outer layer that protects the sensitive insides of your teeth. Phosphoric acid not only directly erodes the calcium coating of your teeth, it also diminished your body’s ability to absorb it. This has a negative effect on both your bones and teeth.
Sugar Free Ice Cream.
Ice cream is one of the world’s favorite desserts. Its place in our culinary culture is undoubtable and its value both as a gourmet dessert and a casual comfort food transcends borders and generations.
As with many sweet treats, the problem with ice cream is its high sugar content. You don’t need to eat much to send your blood sugar levels off the chart. This is a well understood fact and there is no way of ignoring it. Eating substantial amounts of ice cream is not doing your health any favors.
Enter sugar free ice cream. This guilt-free version of our beloved frozen dessert is quickly gaining popularity. The same cold sensation, creamy texture and sweet, sweet goodness, but without the danger of excess sugar consumption. It seems like the perfect marriage of healthy mindfulness and pure indulgence, but is it really?
The idea of aspartame sweetened sugar free ice cream would lead many to think that there are no holds barred when it comes to indulging on the sweet treat. This would be true if sugar was the only problem with ice cream. Unfortunately, ice cream comes laden with many ingredients and nutrients, aside from just sugar, that could adversely affect your health.
Firstly, being a dairy product, ice cream contains generally high concentrations of saturated fat (you can opt for low fat or fat free versions of course). This high concentration of saturated fat can tremendously increase body fat and LDL cholesterol levels, leaving you wide open to metabolic syndrome conditions such as type 2 diabetes or obesity.
Another aspect of dairy products inherent in ice cream is the abundance of the milk sugar lactose. This type of sugar is one of the most common allergens known to man and once consumed, can trigger many health conditions, especially related to gut and digestive health. Bloating, flatulence, diarrhea and IBS are all resulting from exposure to lactose from a large segment of the human population. Suffice to say, the more lactose you eat, them more you will suffer these gut busting conditions.
A good deal of sugar free chewing gum variant come with aspartame as the bulk sweetener. Sugar alcohols are more common, however, due to the laxative effects of things like xylitol and sorbitol, aspartame, a non nutritive sweetener, has a sizable popularity in chewing gum products. This is all well and good, but the problem with this is everything else that comes in a pack of gum, especially when consumed in excess.
Chewing gum contains titanium dioxide, a potential neurotoxin according to some studies. This chemical is used as a whitening agent in chewing gum. Research into its potential toxicity is still largely inconclusive but shows signs of long term negative impacts. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is another chemical ingredient common in chewing gum. It has been linked to potential cancer risk, but also has insufficient research to back this claim.
While aspartame may have its controversies, most of them are unsubstantiated by sound science or have been debunked. Those risk factors that do exist with aspartame consumption, are only notable through abnormally excessive consumption, which can be said of almost any food item. The real risk in aspartame containing foods is the misleading nature of a sugar free label. Many believe that sugar is the only harmful constituent of many common food items. The truth is, sugar is just one part of the processed food crisis. There are many other things to keep mindful of. So don’t over indulge in aspartame sweetened foods, there are many other things in them that can affect your health.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Aspartame soft drinks.