No two ways about it, artificial sweeteners are just plain not good for you. Not that an excess of sugar is either, I’m not saying that at all. But the most common artificial sweetener, Aspartame, is just flat-out terrible.

Aspartame, commonly sold under the name Nutrasweet, has recently been re-branded by its owner Ajinomoto’ as a “new” product with a new name. And charmingly, they have renamed it “AminoSweet” and are touting it as being “natural.” “Natural” is a very slippery term, and I think that the perception that most folks have is that something labeled “Natural” is free from chemical additives and comes from ingredients that have not been chemically manipulated.

I don’t want to go into a huge diatribe about the evils of Aspartame, there’s a ton of info out there on the Internet about it, just Google the name and you’ll find over two million hits with information both pro and con. But if you sift through the info available out there, a number of facts come through:

  • Aspartame easily breaks down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid (aspartate) and methanol, which then turns into formaldehyde in the human body. There are many reasons why this is a bad thing, not the least if which are the effects on the human nervous system and the brain.
  • Aspartame actually inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize fat. Yes, that’s right. A diet additive can cause a reduction in your ability to lose weight. This happens when the chemical is ingested and goes straight to the liver, where it is broken down into the components shown above. During that process, the liver has less cells available to metabolize fat, so fat becomes stored rather than burned.
  • A study funded by Monsanto (which used to own the rights to the product) to study possible birth defects caused by consuming aspartame was cut off after preliminary data showed damaging information about aspartame. Have to wonder why they stopped investigating?

These are only a few of the reasons why artificial sweeteners like Aspartame should be avoided. I lump all the Aspartame brands together: Nutrasweet, Equal, Canderel. As well, I recommend avoiding the following: Neotame, Sucralose (Splenda, Altern), and Acesulfame-K (Sunette, Sweet & Safe, Sweet One.)

Stevia seems to be relatively safe to use, but as with any sweetener, I would avoid high amounts. It takes time, but you can train your body to do without sugar in your coffee or on your cereal, honey in your tea, or corn syrup in foods. Once you’ve gotten away from sugar/sweeteners in your food, you’ll be amazed at how sweet certain foods taste, almost to the point where they’ll make you gag.

Again, I’m not holding myself up as some paragon of healthiness here, I have a large and meaningful sweet tooth, no question of that. But if you must indulge your sweet tooth, do it with real sugar. Drink a Coke, not a Diet Coke. Or better yet, just go for some plain old water.

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