When it comes to artificial sugars, there is one that undeniably needs to be cut from our diets – aspartame. There are so many controversial products on the market, that are 100% not good for us (cigarettes for one), and aspartame is high on that list. It is hidden in our food and drink as an artificial sugar and, the worst part is, most of us don’t even know we are consuming it. So, what is it exactly and why shouldn’t we have it?
Aspartame is a chemical compound, made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol, and is more commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal. It’s an additive that was originally found by accident, by a chemist who was developing an anti-ulcer drug, and has since been used as a cheaper and lower calorie alternative to sugar.
Aspartic acid is an amino acid, that when consumed in free-form (unbound to proteins), can slowly destroy neurons and lead to chronic illnesses, such as MS, Parkinson’s, ALS and Dementia. It becomes unstable when exposed to high temperatures (e.g. putting an equal in coffee) and transforms the non-essential amino acid into a deadly neurotoxin.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain however, high levels can be extremely dangerous and sometimes lethal. Consuming aspartame causes an excess of phenylalanine which cannot be processed by the body. The overload causes the brain to decrease serotonin production, which effects mental well-being and can lead to depression and other mental illness’.
Methanol is an alcohol poison that breaks down into the neurotoxin, formaldehyde. Formaldehyde consumption has many side effects including vertigo, gastrointestinal disturbances, memory lapses, pain in extremities and behavioural disturbances, not to mention the damage it can cause to our vision – blurring and obscuration, retinal damage and blindness. To top it off, it is also a known carcinogenic substance (capable of causing cancer)!
As if those three substances weren’t enough, aspartame intake also creates a by-product called Diketopiperazine (DKP), which has been linked to the occurrence of some brain tumours. How this product is still allowed to be used in our food and placed on supermarket shelves, amazes me! BEWARE, it’s most commonly found in low or no sugar products, yoghurts, chewing gum, syrups, toppings and cereals, which most people have in their house. It’s a cheaper option to make a product that will taste just as sweet as sugar, with a more desirable macronutrient content and calorie total.
I think the breakdown of the ingredients is pretty self-explanatory as to why we shouldn’t consume aspartame. I wanted to write this blog to get people thinking about what substances we actually consume when buying from the supermarket. Majority of the products on the shelves are designed to make money, not to keep you healthy. They’ll use marketing techniques that read ‘low-sugar’ or ‘no added sugar’ to trick you into thinking you are buying a healthier item. Be more conscious of nutrition labels – don’t only look at the macronutrient content, consider the ingredients as well. In a nutshell, put your health first and choose to eat products that only contain natural sugars!