May 17th, 2011

Aspartame Artificial Sweetener: Sweet Crisis

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diet soda

Diet Coke has taken the lead for the first time ever over its arch-rival, Pepsi-Cola, to become the second-most popular soft drink in the country behind Coca-Cola.  Unfortunately, both come with their own set of problems:  Coke is packed with High Fructose Corn Syrup (it’s listed as the second ingredient) and Diet Coke is sweetened with Aspartame .

I remember my college roommate having a case of TAB (do they make TAB anymore?) on hand at all times.  TAB was filled with caffeine and aspartame-so there were no calories and it would help us stay awake studying for exams ( a college students BFF).  Today soda is still in fashion with the average American drinking 736 “eight-ounce servings” of soda each year.

Aspartame-the bad and the ugly

Aspartame is found in many different products from soda to children’s vitamins. A new Danish study has found a significant link between drinking diet soda and pre-term delivery. The European Parliament is now pushing for a label on foods that contain aspartame (the technical name for brands such as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure). If passed, the new label will read “Contains aspartame (a source of phenylalanine; might be unsuitable for pregnant women.)” A second Italian study (Soffritti et al., 2010) confirmed that aspartame is a carcinogenic agent in both male mice and rats.

Should we be concerned?


The Italian and Danish studies are just the tip of the iceberg –there is more uncovering to come. But we do have enough information to know that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are toxic and shouldn’t be consumed. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Chugging a Diet Coke or two every day could cause you to have a heart attack, stroke, or other major heart event.

Aspartame has already been banned by the European Common Market from any children’s products, but the United States and Canada have not taken any similar precautions. Here we go again…..why is the US sitting back and failing to protect its citizens?

Artificial sweeteners aren’t a substitute for real food

There is an argument that artificial sweeteners are recommended for those trying to lose weight or diabetics. However, if someone is trying to cut back on calories or control their diabetes it would seem to make more sense to recommend eating “real” foods-fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other foods that are not refined and processed.

Bottom line: Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners aren’t safe. Stick with whole foods that aren’t processed.

High fructose corn syrup isn’t a safe alternative

A few years back a study found mercury contamination in HFCS.  This form of sugar is highly processed and has been linked to all sorts of health issues including obesity, cavities and a host of other health concerns and diseases.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, found HFCS in an entire McDonald’s meal, there was HFCS not only in his 32-ounce soda, but in the ketchup and the bun of his cheeseburger — and Pollan fingers it as the prime culprit in the nation’s obesity epidemic. In a recent Fooducate article, they indicate that the trend is for manufacturers who used HFCS in their products to switch back to sugar. I’m not sure this is the best solution since sugar has its own baggage, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Bottom line for HFCS: Found in many refined foods. It can contribute to obesity and/or other serious health conditions.

My bottom line: Put down your soda-diet or regular and go and grab yourself a glass of water.

What do you think about artificial sweeteners?  Do we need them in our food or drink?

If you would like more information – here are some fabulous resources:

Healthy Child Healthy World

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Moms Clean Air Force

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[Top photo used under Creative Commons from John Ashley/Flickr]






28 Responses to “Aspartame Artificial Sweetener: Sweet Crisis”

  1. I’ve heard that sparkling water and 100% fruit juice is a good substitute for pop. It’s bad stuff! I stopped drinking it a couple years ago and really don’t miss it at all!

  2. Oh gosh aspartame is just so horrible. I wish more people realized how much worse the artifical *crap* is for their bodies. 🙁

  3. I love seeing you call it “pop” Michelle. I haven’t heard that in a long time-very Midwestern! I think, like any habit, it’s not easy to break. I personally love water.

  4. Cathy-it really is so horrible. The word is out there….we just have to keep spreading it!

  5. Oh my ,what we used to eat and drink in college. I love how Michal Pollan analyzes the McDonald’s meal, and figures out what percent (90+) is derived from corn! One big problem with HFCS besides all the above is that it’s CHEAP (since the gov’t subsidizes corn)!

  6. I’ve heard that one of the reasons sweetened beverages are so bad for us is that we don’t feel full when consuming sugary liquids, unlike sugary desserts! So our brains aren’t telling us to stop, and that’s how so many people come to consume bottle after bottle of Coke every day. So much money spent on empty calories that could actually go towards the purchase of fresh vegetables… sigh.

  7. I can’t even go there-remembering all the stuff that went into my body in college. Better to forget at this point. Yep-HFCS is very cheap Betsy and therefore very appealing to fast food chains and other food manufacturers trying to keep their costs down. That stat from Michael Pollan, 90% of a McDonald’s meal is derived from corn, is frightening.

  8. You are right Andrea-that’s why diet soda isn’t really a weight loss device. It actually makes you hungry and you end up consuming more. Ironic, isn’t it?

  9. I preach this ALL the time in my office, especially to the pregnant women that has a diet coke everyday. Ay yi yi! I even did a post on it becasue I was so shocked she was drinking them knowing the effects.

    sometimes I even tell people if you are going to drink soda at least drink regular…. but now I am not even going to say that. Great information.

  10. Thanks for sharing the link to your post Meg. Did the pregnant woman in you office read it? And did she stop drinking diet coke? Your list really shows how many things have aspartame-so many processed foods. And the list of possible symptoms is frightening. Drink water……pass it on.

  11. Aspartame bad! I hate that it is nearly impossible to find gum that doesn’t have this stuff in it.

  12. I hear you Todd-aspartame is in so many things and it’s so toxic. Glee Gum is aspartame free if you need a gum fix.

  13. Artificial sweeteners seem utterly unnecessary. If I want a little sweetness, I’ll have some real sugar or honey. Not too much, and not too often. I recently came across a recipe to make home brewed ginger ale using sugar, fresh ginger, and yeast, and I think that will be fun to try as an alternative to soda.

  14. Your recipe for ginger ale sounds delicious. I agree Jennifer, we can do without artificial sweeteners. There are so many natural alternatives out there, stevia, agave and honey are at the top of my list.

  15. Hi Lori, I’ve been avoiding aspartame for nearly a decade now. I tell all my diet soda drinking friends how bad it is. I got my mom to quit but not my dad. I believe that aspartame is addictive because I craved it horribly when I quit (I was still drinking caffeinated beverages so that wasn’t it).

    Like Michelle, I drink a combo of fruit juice and seltzer instead. Occasionally I will have a Mexican Coke as a treat. It comes in a class bottle and has sugar instead of HFCS.

  16. Oops, I meant glass bottle.

  17. Oh I am so glad that we don’t drink any of those kinds of beverages anymore!!

  18. Jennifer-you’re right, aspartame is highly addictive. Good for you for giving it up-no easy task. It’s hard for me to watch others drinking diet soda , since it creates so many health issues. I like your substitute-fruit juice and seltzer-a great replacement.

  19. I knew what you meant!

  20. Me too Alica! Although my kids are definitely curious and want to try them all. It’s hard to understand how awful they are when you’re little. All you can think about is how delicious they taste.

  21. […] the United States, 85 percent of kids drink a beverage containing sugar or artificial sweetener at least once per […]

  22. […] the United States, 85 percent of kids drink a beverage containing sugar or artificial sweetener at least once per […]

  23. […] adults) are drinking it.  In the United States, 85 percent of kids drink a beverage containing sugar or artificial sweetener at least once per […]

  24. […] Be aware that gum is laden with other possible toxins, including artificial sweeteners. […]

  25. […] aspartame as a sweetener-it is derived from […]

  26. […] store are filled with processed sugars or sugar substitutes such as high fructose corn syrup or Aspartame. Artificial sweeteners are known to cause numerous health issues ranging from headaches to cancer. […]

  27. […] it turns out, agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener, more even than high fructose corn syrup […]

  28. […] market are filled with processed sugars or sugar substitutes such as high fructose corn syrup or Aspartame. So I decided to make my own. HERE’s the recipe if you want to give it a […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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