The new branding of Aspartame as AminoSweet crossed our desks the other day. After a good head shaking over the marketing that presents this old synthetic sweetener in a now ‘natural’ light, we thought it was a good opportunity to revisit an old conversation.
Are artificial sweeteners safe for us to consume? What impacts do they have on our health? Moreover, what are the best choices when it comes to satisfying our sweet tooth?
According to Health Canada, aspartame has been permitted as a food additive since 1981. Over the past three decades, the synthetic sweetener has shown up in gum, yogurts, diet soda and even toothpaste, especially those designed for children through flavors like bubblegum.
“An acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 40 milligrams/kilogram of body weight/day was established by scientists in the Food Directorate of Health Canada. This ADI is recognized internationally and is the same as that established by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO).”
Translated, a 155-pound person could conceivably consume about 15 and a half, 12-ounce cans of diet soda that contain 180 milligrams each of the synthetic sweetener per day.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Lisa Kilgour says that while AminoSweet’s messaging that aspartic acid and phenylalanine are naturally occurring amino acids is true, it’s their combination that you will not find in nature.
“In the case of AminoSweet, those amino acids are found in thousands of foods, not just the fruit they’ve chosen to brand with. However, combined those two amino acids on their own are a unique chemical structure. And studies have shown a constant hit of low dose aspartame feeds specific strains of bacteria in the gut which contribute to metabolic syndrome.”
Artificial or sugar substitutes like Aspartame, NutraSweet and Sucralose (Splenda) have all been shown to contribute to obesity and diabetes. Not necessarily because they are Frankenstein sugars, which they are, Splenda is chlorinated sugar (yuck), but because of the miscues they are giving our bodies.
“When we taste sweetness on our tongue our brains expect there will be sugar coming,” says Kilgour. “That is why we still end up wanting something sweet later; we are seeking to satisfy our cravings. Hence overeating of sugary foods that can lead to obesity and conditions like diabetes.”
She suggests fruit and honey, followed by maple syrup as the best choices to satisfy our very natural cravings for sweetness. Unrefined cane, coconut, and palm sugar are the next best bets.
“If you have not seen it advertised it is usually better for you. You’ll never see a commercial for fruit, and yet, it’s not only sweet, it’s good for us with lots of fiber and nutrients.”