Sitting done at one of the beachside cafes I can´t resist looking at what other people eat. At the table next to me the waiter came out and politely asked what drinks they would like. “I´ll have a Coke. No you better make it a Diet Coke. I´ve got to start watching what I eat and drink, ” she confessed to her friend and the waiter.
Yeah, you better make mine a Diet one as well,” added her friend with a touch of guilt.
So many of us are opting for various diet products and artificial sweeteners thinking that they are a healthier alternative for a snack or treat. It definitely is beneficial to reduce the amount of processed sugar in your diet, however concern is mounting over the side effects from these artificial sweeteners. They may be doing you more harm than good.
Also known as Nutra-Sweet or Equal, aspartame is by far the most popular of all sweeteners and is regarded by many as the most dangerous of additives. Loss of energy, mood swings, memory loss and many other serious side effects have been associated to consumption of aspartame (1).
At the conclusion of one of my patient workshops, Cynthia, a guest of one of my patients, hung around to ask me some questions. She waited until it was just she, her friend and myself left. Cynthia walked up to me with her friend with her head bowed in embarrassment. “Umm you mentioned something about mood swings and aspartame,”
eah that´s right,”
Well have you heard anything about it causing violence and aggression because my fiancée has been becoming really aggressive to the point of starting to get physical with me?”
I haven´t heard of studies measuring whether it triggers violence but it makes sense if it affects people´s moods that it may be a factor.”
My fiancée is a wonderful guy and he has been worried about his recent outbursts as well.”
Does he have much aspartame?”
About 10 cans of diet cola a day,”
Wow. That can´t be good for anyone. It would be a great idea for his health to cut out on the diet drinks and then see if it helps other areas.”
As Cynthia left I could tell that she was feeling a sense of relief that possibly
there was another solution apart from breaking up.
I received a phone call from Cynthia about 2 weeks later. ” You wouldn´t believe the difference in him since he has given up Diet Colas. He is back to his kind and gentle self.”
Studies have also shown that artificial sweeteners cause you to actually eat more. which defeats the entire purpose of wanting to consume diet products. Artificial sweeteners inhibit the production of serotonin in your brain that gives you the sense of feeling full. So artificial sweeteners actually inhibit your own capacity to feel full making it easier for you to overeat.
Polyols” such as sorbitol are the next most commonly used artificial sweeteners. Food regulations require these additives to be labelled “Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect”, but based on some studies it is thought that a large number cases of cramping and diarrhoea could have been the result of intolerance to sorbitol consumption (2). Definitely something you can do without on a busy day!
Before you get too despondent, all is not lost. There is a natural, sugar-free herb that you can use called stevia. Stevia has been used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years and is available at most health food stores. Another thing that can help satisfy the sweet tooth is…wait for it… CHOCOLATE. That´s right. The occasional piece of dark bittersweet chocolate is not only delicious to taste but it also doesn´t result in your sugar levels going off the scale!
When you look for the ideal chocolate it is not milk chocolate. Milk chocolate is the most common chocolate and is full of refined sugar destined to create deposits of fat around your stomach and thighs. Look for dark organic chocolate with 70 % cocoa and make sure that it is not full of any of the abovementioned sweeteners. It costs about double the price of normal milk chocolate but it is many times better for you than milk chocolate.
1) Maher, T.J., Wurtman, R.J.,´Possible Neurological Effects of Aspartame, a widely used Food Additive´ Environmental health perspectives, vol75, 1987,pp53-7
2) Jain, N.K. et al., ´Sorbitol Intolerance In Adults´, American Journal of Gastroenterology1985: 80 (9): 678-81. Dr. Paul Lathois, California Chronicle