Taming Your Intake Of Artificial Sweeteners
Much of the negativity surrounding aspartame is unproven, but there are still smarter choices
If you love a good Coke with your burger and fries, but are trying to lose weight, a low-calorie diet version might seem like the perfect solution. Or, on the other hand, you may have heard that aspartame, the artificial sweetener in most diet sodas, causes diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The fact is that neither of these opposing viewpoints tells the whole truth. (Not to mention that if you’re trying to lose weight, a burger with fries is not a smart choice either.)
“Several myths are associated with aspartame,” says R. John Barrett Jr, MD, a physician at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Primary Care on the Islands. “One is that it causes cancer and brain tumors. Another is that it increases hunger and causes weight gain. Yet another viewpoint is that aspartame is associated with lupus, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.”
“Studies have failed to link aspartame to these disorders,” Barrett says.
However, when patients seek Dr. Barrett’s counsel on what to eat and drink while attempting weight loss, diet sodas and other foods containing aspartame (including chewing gum, fruit juices, and ice cream) are not part of his recommendations.
“Beverages that I would recommend include water, coffee or tea without sugar, or low-fat milk,” Barrett says. “I would recommend coupling that with a diet that consists of lean meats, colorful fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. These meals should be in salad plate-size portions.”
So as long as you follow your physician’s guidelines for healthy weight loss, it’s okay to enjoy that diet Coke every once in a while. For many people, there are some occasions—especially during a hot Southern summer—when there is just no substitute.