Monday, July 20th, 2009...6:23 AM
Diet Soda Dreams
A fan of the Libra Fitness Facebook page recently asked, “What is your take on aspartame? Do you think it is as harmful as they say? I am trying to cut it out if my diet but it is hard!” Good question.
On the one hand, aspartame is one of the most heavily researched chemicals ever. It has been declared safe (more than once) by the FDA. It was one of the first food additives approved by the FDA after Searle & others got into big trouble (i.e., falsifying research data, poor treatment of lab animals, etc.), and the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) regulations had to be implemented back in the 1970s. (I know a little something about this. I have worked for years in quality assurance implementing GLP). Aspartame has also been on the market for over twenty-five years.
On the other hand, aspartame is a synthetic chemical, not found in nature. I have read many articles proclaiming the dangers of aspartame, but to be fair, not a lot of that is peer-reviewed, clinical research. So, this is an area where each individual person has to make some decisions based on all of the information available, their own experience, and what their bodies are telling them. The most compelling arguments, to me, raise concerns about how artificial sweeteners might “trick” the body’s natural insulin response by making your body think calories are coming (you just ate “sugar,” right?), but then no calories come. The claim is that this can lead to an increase in insulin production and food cravings. Another argument proposes that phenylalanine (a chemical in aspartame) can disrupt serotonin production and lead to cravings for sugary foods from which our bodies can create more serotonin. The bottom line is that we take a risk when we choose to put anything unnatural in our bodies. We have seen time and time again what happens to the human body when we mess with our food. Look at what processed foods, HFCS, and trans fats have done to the health of the average American.
Personally, I have found giving up diet soda to be nearly impossible. Switching to caffeine-free doesn’t seem to make it any easier . It makes me wonder if it’s the aspartame or just the habit that makes it so difficult. However, in the end, the sheer fact that it is so difficult worries me. So, I don’t buy two cases of diet soda every week any more, but I still crave a diet drink every day or two, and I HAVE to get my fix at the local convenience store. I figure one every couple of days is better than three or four per day, and I let it go. Everything in moderation? I hope that is good enough.
About the Author:
Chris Heidel is the owner and primary personal trainer with Libra Fitness in Austin, TX, a private, in-home studio. Chris focuses her business on developing mentoring relationships with her clients built on trust and meaningful support to help them set, achieve, and maintain realistic fitness goals. Chris truly believes that while getting in shape isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chris is certified through the American Council on Exercise.