by Joseph M. Mercola
April 16, 2014
For the last 17 years, I've warned that artificial sweeteners can
wreck your health.
Aspartame is among the worst of the bunch, and in
general, people who consume aspartame tend to be in poorer health.
They also tend to develop more of a
I found the evidence against artificial sweeteners to be so
compelling, and the hazards so disconcerting, I wrote an entire book
on the subject called
Sweet Deception, published in
2006. Now, years later, the research I presented in that book has
been confirmed many times over, and the tide is finally beginning to
turn against this toxic food additive.
Soda consumption is now in "freefall," having dropped to its lowest
point since 1995, according to Time Magazine,1
with diet sodas taking the greatest hit.
Sales of carbonated beverages in general fell three percent in 2013,
while diet Coke and diet Pepsi both dropped by nearly seven percent.
Sales of Diet Mountain Dew also fell more sharply than regular
As reported by Time Magazine:3
"One reason for the decline could be
a growing awareness of the obesity epidemic in the US and
growing health concerns surrounding sugar-sweetened beverages.
According to Reuters, industry
experts say the beverage industry is shrinking under the
scrutiny. Even diet-branded drinks have suffered a loss of sales
with concerns over artificial sweeteners."
It is very gratifying to see this turn
of events, knowing we're making a difference. Also, quite frankly,
I'm tired of writing about something this obviously harmful.
I'll be happy to move on to other
challenges that threaten your health.
Two Diet Sodas Per Day
...Are 50 Percent More Likely to Die from
Most recently, one of the largest studies of its kind, which
included nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women who were followed for
about 10 years, found that drinking just two diet drinks a day can
dramatically increase your risk of an early death from heart
The findings were presented at the
American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session in
As reported by the University of Iowa:7
"...[C]ompared to women who never or
only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consume two or more a
day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event
[heart attack or stroke] and 50 percent more likely to die from
'This is one of the largest
studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with
some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to
the metabolic syndrome,' says Dr. Ankur Vyas... the lead
investigator of the study.
...The association persisted even
after researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic
characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors, including
body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical
activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension,
high cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened beverage intake.
On average, women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day
were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher
prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and higher body
Granted, there are limitations to this
The nutritional data was gathered using
questionnaires, and people are notorious for not remembering exactly
what they eat and drink each week. So while there's an association,
the study cannot prove causation.
Still, other studies have come to the same conclusion, so these
findings simply add to an already voluminous pile of evidence
showing an association between artificial sweeteners and poor health
According to Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological
sciences at Purdue University who studies the effects of artificial
sweeteners in animals, the featured findings are not at all
Her animal research also shows that diet
drinks promote heart problems, and that animals fed artificial
sweeteners develop a disrupted metabolic response to real sugar.
She recently told MedicineNet.com:8
"[Like diabetics], they become
hyperglycemic. Their blood sugars go up higher than they should.
They also make less of a heart-protective protein.
If drinking diet soda interferes
with this system, then over the long term you're taking
something away that protects your cardiovascular health, and
that could be what's contributing to these effects."
Regular soda drinking is also strongly
associated with obesity and poor health.
This link is easier to grasp however,
since more people understand the health hazards of excessive sugar
consumption nowadays. The fact that low- or no-calorie sweeteners do
as much harm (or more!) than sugar, on the other hand, has seemed,
and still seems, counterintuitive to many.
Fortunately, this confusion is beginning
In fact, we may finally have reached the tipping point
where enough people understand the hazards, which means the end of
aspartame and other artificial sweeteners is near.
Sweeteners Are NOT a Dieter's (or Diabetic's) Best Friend
Despite being promoted for weight loss, foods and beverages with
artificial sweeteners have never actually been proven to help weight
On the contrary, studies that look at
this actually find artificial sweeteners promote weight gain. Part
of the reason why artificial sweeteners don't work as advertised
(such as help you lose weight and manage your insulin) relates to
the fact that your body is not fooled by sweet taste without
Scientific American 10 previously ran an article
explaining the science behind this phenomenon. In a nutshell, when
you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which
supplies you with a jolt of pleasure. Your brain's reward center is
The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which
eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain
amount of calories have been ingested. In contrast, when you consume
something sweet but non-caloric (i.e. an artificial sweetener), your
brain's pleasure pathway is still activated by the sweet taste, but
there's nothing to deactivate it, since your body is still waiting
for the calories.
As a result, you may end up overeating.
Another recent report published in the journal Trends in
Endocrinology & Metabolism 11 found that diet soda
drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for
regular soda, including,
excessive weight gain
type 2 diabetes
stroke 12, 13
The sad fact is, Americans in particular
are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex
set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end
leads to excess weight gain - whether that flavor comes loaded with
calories or not.
Sweeteners Actually INCREASE Weight Gain
The connection between sweet taste alone and increased hunger can be
found in the medical literature going back at least two decades.
These two studies, for example, dating
back to the late 80s and early 90s, both showed this link between
artificial sweeteners and increased hunger:
Physiology & Behavior, 1988
In this study, they determined that intense (no- or
low-calorie) sweeteners can produce significant changes in
appetite. Of the three sweeteners tested, aspartame produced
the most pronounced effects.
Physiology & Behavior, 1990
Here, they again evaluated whether or not the mere taste of
"sweet" increases hunger, by having human subjects chew gum
for 15 minutes containing various levels of aspartame
(0.05%, 0.3%, 0.5%, or 1.0%).
Interestingly, although those who chewed
artificially sweetened gum reported increased hunger compared to the
control group who were given nothing or unsweetened gum base to
chew, the increase did not directly correlate with the aspartame
concentration in the gum.
Women experienced the greatest increase in hunger after chewing gum
containing 0.3 percent aspartame (the second lowest concentration
amount), while men were the hungriest after chewing on gum
containing 0.5 percent aspartame.
The authors stated:
"The highest aspartame
concentrations had a time-dependent, biphasic effect on
appetite, producing a transient decrease followed by a sustained
increase in hunger ratings.
Thus, the concentration of the
sweetener, the sex of the subject, and the time after chewing,
were all important determinants of whether 'sweetness' increased
Can Wreak Havoc with Your Health
Aspartame is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
The phenylalanine has been synthetically
modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the
sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is
very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to
easily break off and form methanol.
You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because
methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits
and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it
to be safely passed through your digestive tract.
Not so with the methanol created by
aspartame; there it's not bonded to anything that can help eliminate
it from your body. That's problem number one.
Problem number two relates to the fact that humans are the only
mammals who are NOT equipped with a protective biological mechanism
that breaks down methanol into harmless formic acid. This is why
animal testing of aspartame does not fully apply to humans.
According to Dr. Woody Monte, a
toxicology expert and professor emeritus at Arizona State University
in food and chemistry:
"There is a major biochemical
problem here. Methyl alcohol is known now, and has been known
since 1940, to be metabolized differently by humans from every
As explained by Dr. Monte, in humans,
the methanol ends up acting as a Trojan horse, and here's how.
Both animals and humans have small
peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of
hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a
variety of chemicals.
catalase, which help
detoxify methanol. Other chemicals in the peroxisome convert the
formaldehyde to formic acid, which is harmless, but, again, this
last step occurs only in animals. Human peroxisomes cannot convert
the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid.
So to recap: in humans, the methyl alcohol travels through your
blood vessels into sensitive areas, such as your brain, that are
ADH, which converts methanol to formaldehyde.
there's no catalase present, the formaldehyde is free to cause
enormous damage in your tissues.
Symptoms from methanol poisoning are
many, and include,
The most well known problems from
methanol poisoning are vision problems including,
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that
causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause
Not surprisingly, the most comprehensive
and longest human study looking at aspartame toxicity found a clear
association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Beware of New
Generation of Artificial Sweeteners
As consumers increasingly avoid artificial sweeteners like
aspartame, Splenda, and others,
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to
save their sinking business by developing the next generation of
In my opinion, it's doubtful that these
newer sweeteners will be any safer than previous versions, but it
may fool many, because these newer additives won't be listed on the
As reported by The Motley Fool,16 PepsiCo now has worldwide
to use Sweetmyx (S617) in non-alcoholic beverages.
The sweetener, developed by Senomyx - a biotech company that
specializes in novel flavor modifiers and flavor enhancing food
additives - was recently granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
status,17, 18 which opens the door for commercial use.
has lifetime rights to commercialize Sweetmyx for alcoholic
beverages and food products.)
The crux here is that Sweetmyx is considered a flavor additive,
which allows it to slip beneath the radar. It will simply be lumped
together under the "artificial flavors" listing on the label, and
doesn't have to go through the FDA approval process.
The reason for this is because it's not actually a sweetener per
say. Rather, it is a flavor modifier; a chemical substance
(protected as a trade secret) that tricks the taste receptors on
your tongue to send the message to your brain that what you're
tasting is sweeter than it really is.
Hence, less fructose or sugar
can be used in the product, while still providing the same sweet
taste. But as discussed earlier, such tricks tend to backfire, and
could create unsuspected metabolic havoc.
At present, no one knows
exactly what the ramifications might be.
Sweetened beverages, whether it's sweetened with,
the worst culprits causing obesity and related health problems,
including diabetes and heart and liver disease, just to name a few.
Remember that sweetened beverages also include flavored milk
products, bottled teas, and "enhanced" water products. I'd be leery
of anything listing "artificial flavors" as well - especially if the
products boasts being low in sugar.
Ditching ALL of these types of beverages can go a long way toward
reducing your risk for chronic health problems and weight gain. Your
best, most cost effective choice of beverage is filtered tap water.
I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system
unless you can verify the purity of your water.
You can read more
about water filtration in
this previous article to help you make a
decision about what type of water filtration system will suit you
best. Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue
of water filtration and purification couldn't be more important.
Besides purification, I also believe it's critical to drink living
Last year, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack about his book,
The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor.
fourth phase of water is referred to as "structured water" and is
the type of water found in all of your cells. This water has healing
properties, and is naturally created in a variety of ways.
Water from a deep spring is one excellent source of structured
water, and there's a great website called FindaSpring.com 19 where
you can find a natural spring in your area.
You can also promote
structured water through vortexing, i.e. stirring your water,
creating a vortex in the glass or pitcher.
Addicted to Sweets? There's Help!
If you're having a hard time giving up artificial sweeteners (they
can be just as addictive as other sugars), I suggest trying the
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
More than any traditional or
alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome
food cravings. If diet soda is the culprit for you, be sure to check
out Turbo Tapping, which is an extremely effective and simple tool
to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time.
still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need
to make additional changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can
help you do this in a step-by-step fashion.
As for a safer sweetener option, you could use
both of which are safe natural sweeteners.
Remember, if you struggle
with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra
weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely
benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners, including stevia and Luo Han.
Last but not least, if you experience side effects from aspartame or
any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you
live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report
- just go to the
FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find
the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your
As Terri LaPoint writes in her Inquisitr article:20
"Ironically, the manufacturer of aspartame, Searle, started working
on finding a drug to combat memory loss shortly after FDA approval
for aspartame to be used in carbonated drinks.
Aspartame is a neurotoxin. Even ants have sense enough to avoid it.
Yet, diet drinks add this neurotoxic chemical as its sweetener, and
they promote it as a heath food to a public that naively puts its
trust in the experts.
Then the manufacturers stand ready to offer
you drugs to help you with your symptoms that they don't tell you
are directly related to your diet sodas. It's a win-win situation
for them, with the consumer as the loser. You don't lose weight. You
Drink water. Drink tea. Drink regular soda - anything
but the diet sodas.
You just might live longer."
I couldn't agree more.
Sources and References