While it’s tempting to choose diet soda during the holidays in an effort to prevent that holiday weight gain we’re all so familiar with, it would be wiser to avoid it like the plague. That’s because diet soda like almost all diet products on the market contains aspartame. And while aspartame has had a publicity makeover in an effort to raise its profile in the marketplace and boost sales for soda manufacturers, changing its name to NeoTame is the only thing that has changed. Aspartame is still the nasty stuff that has been linked to a wide range of health problems and even causes weight GAIN. Yes, you read that right: DIET soda causes weight GAIN.
In a new animal study published in The Journal of Food and Nutrition Research, scientists found a link between aspartame consumption and weight gain. Aspartame increased the animals’ appetites as well as their blood cholesterol levels. And, if that wasn’t enough: the researchers also found abnormal brain and liver changes linked to aspartame. The study concluded that based on the effects of aspartame regulatory authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and other public health agencies should change their policies. Currently aspartame is allowed for consumption and warning labels are not even required on products containing the harmful artificial sweetener.
While there was no change on blood sugar levels in this study, in a study published in the journal Nature, researchers found that aspartame caused changes to intestinal microbes, which further resulted in glucose intolerance linked to weight gain. Glucose intolerance occurs when the body stops responding properly to the hormone insulin, which normally regulates blood sugar levels before they can cause damage to the brain or body.
Authors of another study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine also called upon regulatory authorities to re-evaluate their current regulatory positions. The researchers found a link between aspartame and cancer and point to the public’s unknowing consumption of this chemical sweetener due to its rampant use in many products outside of diet soda. They indicate that aspartame can be found in over 6000 products currently available, including over 500 pharmaceutical drugs. As a result, even people making a concerted effort to avoid aspartame may be unknowingly ingesting the brain and nervous system toxin.
Earlier research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found an unexpected health link to aspartame. When girls drank diet soda containing aspartame they prematurely started having their periods, according to scientists at Columbia University Medical Center.
Lynne Melcome, nutritionist and author of the popular book Health Hazards of White Sugar, advises that aspartame’s effects can be mistaken for a wide variety of other health conditions, including: Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, epilepsy, Epstein-Barr virus, Huntington’s chorea, hypothyroidism, Lou Gehrig’s disease, lyme disease, Meniere’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-polio syndrome.
Does that mean you have to give up soda altogether? No. There are healthier options like Zevia, which is sweetened with the herb stevia. Or you can make your own soda, if you absolutely must have it, by adding mixing unsweetened fruit juice to carbonated water. Be sure to read labels and avoid any products containing aspartame or preservatives like sodium benzoate, which is also best avoided.