When trying to lose weight, the majority of people will opt to replace their favorite sodas with the diet versions to cut calories out of their daily intake. In theory, this makes sense and sounds like a good idea. BUT when you look at the research, studies have shown over and over again that drinking soda, both regular and diet, encourages weight gain! What is it about diet sodas that is contributing to weight gain? The artificial sweeteners. Sugar is what gives regular soda its calories, in order to be a diet soda, the sugar has to be removed and it is replaced by artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are engineered compounds that don’t give us any calories. Aside from unexpected weight gain, artificial sweeteners have many other negative health effects.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is found in a wide variety of food and drink. It is also known as Equal, Nutrasweet and Sugar Twin. Aspartame does provide calories when consumed but it is up to 220 times sweeter than sugar. This means very very small amounts are used for sweetening in food products and amounts this small provide virtually zero calories. Even though teeny tiny amounts are being used, aspartame is the most controversial artificial sweetener. 70 % of complaints to the Food and Drug Administration are due to aspartame. Aspartame causes neurotransmitter imbalances. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that travel to different parts of your body and tell it what to do. They also affect mood, sleep, weight and concentration. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter which means it calms the brain and creates balance. Aspartame decreases serotonin levels leading to cravings for carbohydrates (sugar!), insomnia, body temperature changes, headaches and migraines, seizures and moodiness. It also causes an increase in the excitatory neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters stimulate the brain. An increase causes anxiety, dizziness, memory loss, spasms, muscle pain, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears) and blurred vision.
When consumed during pregnancy, aspartame can have lasting effects on the baby. It can lead to mental retardation, impaired vision and birth defects as well as behavioral, emotional and learning difficulties.
In the OBB program, we know that one of the main areas of weight loss resistance is neurotransmitter imbalances. Having the wrong balance of neurotransmitters with not only prevent you from losing weight but also could be causing you to gain more weight. Even if you are not trying to lose weight, knowing about the negative effects of aspartame should make you reconsider some food and beverage choices.
Check back soon for more information on artificial sweeteners — spenda/sucralose and acesulfame K — as well as an explanation of what goes on in your body when you consume these sweeteners and some suggestions on what you should try in place of diet soda!