If you are a soda drinker and you’re trying to watch your weight, switching out the regular formula for the diet version of your favorite soft drink may seem like a no brainer. After all, it’s called ‘diet’, so it’s got to have lower calories and be a better fit for a diet.
Well, while diet soda may be lower in calories, it may not necessarily help you lose weight – and there’s a good chance that it could present other health problems. Why? – Because of a little ingredient called aspartame.
What is Aspartame?
Aspartame is a very popular sugar substitute. In fact, it’s the most common artificial sweetener used today, and it’s not only found in diet sodas. It is used in a wide variety of products, including:
- Fruit spreads
- Frozen ice cream treats
- Juice drinks
- Maple syrups
- Breath mints
And these are just a small handful of the products that aspartame is found in. It is actually used in over 6,000 products and it is consumed by more than 200 million people worldwide.
How is Aspartame Made?
This sugar substitute is made by bringing together two types of amino acids: Aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Amino acids are the foundation of proteins and they naturally occur in many different types of foods and drinks.
Why Is It Used?
The reason why aspartame is used in food and drinks comes down to one thing: Calories. This chemically altered product is an estimated 200 times sweeter than sugar, which means that a whole lot less of it can be used to create the same sweetening effect as sugar.
As a result, the total calories in the foods and drinks that aspartame is used in has a lot less calories than items that contain natural sugar. People who are trying to watch their weight are some of the biggest consumers of aspartame; however, people who can’t consume sugar because of certain illnesses or diseases also make up a large population of the people who consume it – people who have diabetes, for example.
Aspartame and Your Health
Aspartame has been used in the United States since the early 1980s. Almost as soon as it came onto the market, rumors started to circulate about its negative impact on health. People who are anti-aspartame demand that the substance is linked to a multitude of ailments, including:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Despite these claims and several studies, no definite link has been found connecting aspartame and the aforementioned health issues.
So, why all the controversy? Well, because when aspartame is broken down by the body, part of it turns into methanol. While this is obviously toxic, it is only toxic if consumed in very high quantities. In fact, methanol is naturally produced by the body and it can be found in non-altered foods and drinks.
The amount of methanol that is produced by aspartame is very low; so low that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who regulates the use of the product, recommends using 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.
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