“Can I get a burger, fries and a diet coke?” A common order at fast food restaurants, the last element is a rather futile bid to ‘try to be healthy‘ in one aspect of the meal.
What most people don’t actually realize is that it is far from healthy. The health risks of diet soda run deep. The word diet implies there are no calories (from sugars), instead these beverages usually contain a type of artificial sweetener.
The most common, recognized artificial sweeteners used in diet soda are aspartame and sucralose.
Large population studies have shown that there may be a link between regularly consuming artificial sweeteners and weight gain, among other health risks. It has been observed that consuming artificial sweeteners has a similar effect on insulin, just like sugar.
This spike in insulin caused by drinking artificial sweeteners like sugar, causes the body to shuttle away fat into subcutaneous fat stores, thereby leading to weight gain.
This is concerning for people who consume artificial sweeteners on a regular basis. As you read on, you’ll see more concerning issues associated with these chemical sweeteners.
Aspartame, also known as NutraSweet, Equal, or most recently AminoSweet, can be found in over 6,000 products and is consumed by 250 million people. There have been more complaints to the Food and Drug Administration in the US about aspartame than all other food additives combined (with the exception of Olestra).
Discovered in 1965, aspartame was originally created as a pharmaceutical drug to treat peptic ulcer disease. Accidentally tasted, the chemical did a 180 on its path of use.
Aspartame is composed of 3 amino acids, which are metabolized by the body when ingested. This means they are broken down, absorbed into the bloodstream, and utilized by the cells of the body. One of these amino groups is methanol, otherwise known as wood alcohol. Methanol is broken down into formate, which can accumulate in the body and lead to metabolic acidosis, or excessive acidity.
Methanol poisoning can lead to blindness, kidney damage, multiple organ failure and death.
As this combination of amino acids is metabolized, it is converted into other chemicals called breakdown products. This breakdown also occurs while sitting on the shelf, before a product ever enters your body.
These breakdown products are what mostly cause toxic side-effects in the body, such as headaches, mental confusion, balance problems, and seizures. One breakdown product called DKP is a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is another known carcinogen and can accumulate in cells and damage DNA.
Sucralose has a similar story to aspartame, as it was accidentally found in a lab that was trying to make insecticides. It is considered 600 times sweeter than sugar!
The compound is a sugar molecule with chlorine and carbon atoms attached to it, otherwise known as an organochlorine. Organochlorines are typically used as pesticides and come with serious health risks,such as cancer, organ problems, and environmental toxicity. As you can imagine, many of these chemicals are banned. Except sucralose.
When ingested, a percentage of sucralose is absorbed and moves into the bloodstream because it contains carbon. Normally, the liver will process sucralose and has been shown to damage liver cells. But if detoxification pathways are impaired, as they are in many people, sucralose gets taken into the cells. Since it is fat soluble, it is attracted to organs with a lot of fat such as the brain and heart.
Chlorine by itself is a toxic substance and once in the cell the covalent bond between chlorine and carbon is weak.
The by-products of sucralose metabolism have been shown to cause liver toxicity, fetal toxicity and the depletion of glutathione.
These are just two artificial sweeteners – there are several more on the market such as neotame, acesulfame-k and saccharin.
The data showing that regularly ingesting artificial sweeteners can lead to heavy weight gain (actually more than consuming sugar) is compelling. And even more compelling to stay away from these chemicals is some of the adverse effects reported by the public and found by third party research groups.
Your weight and health is not only about proteins, fat and carbohydrates (or MACROS). The quality of your food and what is added into it play a huge role in your health. Find out where your food comes from, how it is processed and what is put in it.
Selling food comes with a money motivation, not necessarily in your best health interest. Whole foods and no additives are what nature intended.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Kristin Shay