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This one is probably going to piss off some people as i’ve been getting a lot of stick lately about me drinking diet soda and energy drinks! “Oh it’s full of aspartame, it’s going to give you cancer” Seems the be the standard response to me having the odd Pepsi Max or Monster energy drink with my evening meal or lunch.  Before I get in to this, I’m not saying go out and drink these over water, my professional advice is always to drink water and stay hydrated! This is just an evidence based point of view on the aspartame in these drinks.

Now, these people have come to this conclusion because of reading stupid memes on social media, designed to shock, scaremonger and to get clicks.  Though saying that, there are still some health professionals who believe this information to.  The truth is that aspartame isn’t as bad as you think and with over ninety countries worldwide classifying it as safe, this is one of the most tested and studied food additives ever!

A little bit of science for you (just read it) aspartame is a single molecule and when broken down will release phenylalanine, aspartate and methanol. Understanding what these are will go a long way into knowing why the odd can of diet coke isn’t going to kill you, or cause you any harm. Phenylalanine and Aspartate are both amino acids, there are just under 3000 milligrams in 100g of sirloin steak.  Think about that for a second, 3000 milligrams, then take in to consideration that having 100 milligrams in a Diet Coke is hardly going to make much difference. Methanol can be harmful in huge amounts, but the amount you get from aspartame in your diet drink is tiny, you will actually consume more methanol from a glass of blackcurrant or tomato juice than you would a diet drink!

1% of the maximum safe limit for humans is 19 cans per day!

A lot of the over exaggerated information comes from studies showing a link to cancer in rats, people love telling me about the rats.  The studies were done with vast amounts of the sweetener, literally feeding the equivalent of 20 cans of soda, per day, for the lifetime of the animal!  In human terms that’s drinking nearly 3,500 cans every single day, for the average 75kg person.  Just drinking that much fluid will kill you before the aspartame linked cancer! Even with that said, human testing didn’t show any consistent links between cancer and aspartame at all anyway!!

The tests that were done on rats to find a safe amount, were then scaled up to humans.  This actually put the safe amount at around 1,900 cans of soda per day, that’s a SAFE amount to drink, so with that in mind the FDA set a safe limit at ONE PERCENT of that.  So 1% of the maximum safe limit for humans is 19 cans per day!

But what about fat loss, it’s just the same as sugar!

It’s not the same as sugar though, is it?  In terms of fat loss, aspartame and your diet drink are virtually calorie free.  And when it comes to the dreaded insulin, aspartame has been proven NOT to illicit an insulin response to that of sugar, so it doesn’t have the same effect.  You hear people saying “Oh you’re better having the full sugar version” well, if you’re trying to lose fat and control calories, trust me, having a drink with about 40 grams (9 spoonfuls) of sugar in it and 140 calories per can, is not going to help you.

There are other issues involved here, that we, as a society need to challenge

With all that being said, should we look to reduce the amount of chemicals we put in our bodies? Yes sure why not. Does aspartame and artificial sweeteners have negative effects on gut bacteria? Possibly, but we still don’t have enough evidence to be conclusive. Will the acid in the drinks ruin your teeth? Yes, more than likely.  As a population lets reduce our sugar intake overall and lets all be mindful of what we put into our bodies.

When it comes to trying to control and eliminate the growing type 2 diabetes problem in this country and the wider developed world, we need to be reducing our caloric intake, diet drinks have virtually no calories!  Sugar and carbs themselves will not give you diabetes, they are not the cause, being overweight and carrying too much fat will be the main factor, glucose in the blood is the problem, not insulin in the blood (but thats another topic all together)  Please don’t look to blame aspartame for a number of aliments it is said to cause, there are other issues involved here, that we, as a society need to challenge.

Fancy a diet soda with your dinner tonight? Have one.  Want an energy drink before the gym? Drink away, the aspartame in the drink will not kill you.

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