It has been the subject of a lot of debate in health and scientific circles over the last 20 years…is aspartame too dangerous for consumer consumption? What about the dangers of sugar; are we forgetting about that in all the fuss over artificial sweeteners?
We eat sugar daily to sweeten our drinks and our food. There are even items we put in our shopping cart that we may not realize are filled with sugar. Sugar can certainly make bland food more tantalizing; however, it can lead to tooth decay, weight gain, and poor nourishment overall.
The Problem with Sugar
People who crave sugar often have sweet treats in place of fruits and vegetables thus depleting their bodies of proper nutrition. Although it is not the only cause, sugar is also a big contributor to diabetes. Diabetes can lead to a long list of health complications including blindness, heart disease, digestive problems and kidney problems. The dangers of sugar don’t end there. Today about 30 per cent of Americans are considered obese and one-third are overweight. A study conducted in 2009 showed that 50 per cent of U.S citizens consumed half a pound of sugar per day. One group of researchers from the University of California is calling for a tax on sugary treats to help lower what they call the “obesity epidemic”. Heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure are all associated with obesity.
The Aspartame Controversy
When the sugar warnings went out many years ago, the food industry responded with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame. Aspartame is a sweetening agent in literally thousands of sugar-free products including soft drinks, chewing gum, baked goods, candy, fruit juice, and even ice cream.
Artificial sweeteners seemed like a savior to consumers when they first hit the market. This was the answer to the dangers of sugar. These new sweeteners after all came with zero calories. In the years since they were first introduced though, there has been a lot of research conducted on what is in the substitute and how it impacts our bodies. Aspartame is perhaps the most researched artificial sweetener on the market. Studies in the United States have linked it to neurological problems, research in Italy has suggested the sweetener could be associated with some forms of cancer, and some people have even launched law suits claiming their musculoskeletal problems were caused by aspartame. To date however, the Federal Drug Administration considers Aspartame safe for humans when consumed in moderation. The FDA has established an acceptable daily intake for each type of artificial sweetener.
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Despite assurances from the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency placed aspartame on its list of potentially dangerous chemicals in 2011.
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Aspartame contains the amino acid phenylalanine. Research shows that this acid can build up in the blood preventing other chemicals from reaching the brain. As well, claims have been made that aspartame is related to headaches, dizziness, digestive problems, seizures, and mood changes. As a precaution, health practitioners suggest consumers follow the the FDA daily intake limit.
Limiting Sugar is Important
If you are concerned about sugar or artificial sweetener intake, there are ways to cut back without feeling too short-changed. For instance, when you drink fruit juice just make sure it is 100 per cent fruit and not juice drinks that have added sugar. Choose healthier cereals at breakfast; avoid the sugary, frosted options. You can also cut back on sugar by reducing condiments such as ketchup and salad dressing. Yes, they too have sugar in them. Another option is to buy canned fruit packed in water or juice as opposed to syrup, and snack more on fruits or low-fat cheese instead of pastries and cookies. Lastly, when you do decide to have a soft-drink, try the smallest size.
Related Reading: Aspartame vs. Sugar – Is One Any Better?