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does aspartame really cause health problems?

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Aspartame is bad for you.  It will give you cancer and make you blind and break into your house late at night and steal all your stuff.  It’s pure evil and it’s out to hurt you.  I’ve always heard and been vaguely familiar with this type of scaremongering about artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame.  I didn’t pay much attention to it and generally dismissed it as a conspiracy theory or the normal type of banter that comes from people who think everything is harmful.  But I’ve been hearing more and more of it and it’s coming from credible sources, so I think it’s time to pay attention.

Artificial sweeteners are especially popular in diet drinks, which have been seeing a boom in sales because of the perception that they are healthier than regular, sugary drinks.  I just read about a study the other day that shows people who consume one diet soft drink per day have a 48% high risk of a heart attack or stroke than those who do drink regular soft drinks or none at all.  If that’s not enough, other research points to a long list of other aspartame related health problems: brain damage, seizures, brain tumors, vision impairment, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, headaches, hypertension and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Another increasingly popular claim I’m hearing is that sweeteners produce an insulin spike by tricking the body into thinking it is consuming sugar because of its sweet taste.  This means that the body thinks it has extra energy to burn and therefore stops using fat for energy.  So sweeteners end up producing the opposite effect they are supposed to have, making it bad news for anyone who thought their diet drink was going to help them lose weight.

But are any of these claims true?  In short, maybe.  But the jury is still out with regards to aspartame and other sweeteners so it’s hard to tell.  There are arguments for and against sweeteners.  For example, here’s one that says there is no increased risk of cancer, here’s one that says there are no verified health problems associated with aspartame, and here’s one that say there’s no evidence that sucralose causes any health issues.

So, I’ll let you decide for yourself whether you think artificial sweeteners are safe or not.