If you are one of those who want to eat fewer calories, you may prefer alternatives without sugar and sweeteners. In fact, while some sweeteners have calories just like aspartame, they are less used due to their high sweetness levels and their calories are actually neglected and used in many diet or diet products. When my clients first come to get their nutrition stories, I see that the use of sweeteners in cola diet drinks, tea and coffee is common. Honestly, I can say that part of our society uses sweeteners on a large scale.
The reason why we bring this topic to our column today is that in this year’s report recently published by the cancer research institution of the World Health Organization; There was news that it was preparing to put it on the list of substances that can cause cancer, including aspartame, one of the artificial sweeteners. Of course, when the allegations were serious, I wanted to explain the hidden face of sweeteners with a broad information bombardment on this subject.
In fact, if we look at aspartame recommendations over the years; In 1981, JECFA (actually a very valuable scientific committee) said it is safe to consume if limits are not exceeded. And respectively, the European Health Authority and the American Food and Drug Association approved the use of individuals up to 40-50 mg/kg per day. Thus, aspartame began to be widely used in both diet drinks and foods.
Publications have been published in the 2000s stating that there may be an association between the use of many artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, and bladder, ovarian and breast cancer, and some studies have shown no such risk. Because of these conflicting scientific research results, it became necessary to focus on the data of more studies. However, new research published daily indicates that there may be disease risks associated with the use of high doses of many artificial sweeteners, including aspartame.
I must remind you that it is the most commonly used artificial sweetener today, most commonly used in the “light” versions of cola sodas, to reduce calories in many chewing gum foods and to sweeten it because it is 200 times sweeter than sugar .
SO WHAT IS ASPARTAM?
Aspartame is the name of an unnaturally chemically produced artificial sweetener that is a methyl ester of phenylalanine and aspartic acid, which is broken down in the intestines and metabolized in the liver. Aspartame, in the form of a white and odorless crystalline powder, also has a metallic taste in the mouth from a commercial synthetic sweetener widely used in the world today with its sweet taste. The fact that it is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar and provides the same sweetness with only 5% of the calorie content has made aspartame more popular. This chemical, which is completely off-limits to patients with phenylketonuria, is artificial sugar that diabetics and even obese patients consume for years so that it does not raise blood sugar and consume calories. Aspartate added to foods coded E951 is found in more than 1,500 foods in America. For this reason, if you see the E951 code, I recommend that you read food labels carefully and be aware that there is aspartame in this product.
WHO CAN EXPLAIN CARCINOGENIC SUBSTANCES
It has been announced that aspartame, one of the most common artificial sweeteners in the world and widely used in the food industry, will be declared a ‘possibly carcinogenic’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) this month. It was stated that in July it will be listed for the first time as a ‘Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans’ by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization. I would like to point out that many diet, sugar-free or calorie-free soft drinks, some fruit juices, chewing gums, sauces, flavored yogurts, chocolate and confectionery products contain aspartame or another artificial sweetener.
CAN IMPROVE STRESS
Consumption of aspartame can increase the levels of phenylalanine and aspartic acid in the brain. These connections; It can inhibit the synthesis and release of neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which are known as regulators of neurophysiological activity. In addition aspartame; It can act as a chemical stressor by increasing blood cortisol levels and causing excess free radical production.
DISRUPTS THE BLOOD SUGAR BALANCE
Until recently, artificial sweeteners were considered a healthy alternative to sugar, but with no energy and no glycemic effect. However, epidemiological studies conducted in recent years show that the consumption of sweeteners causes an increased risk of developing obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Sweeteners that are not metabolized in the body cause glucose intolerance by the gut microbiota and cause metabolic imbalance by affecting learned responses that help control blood sugar. I would also like to point out that there is a link between the use of sweeteners and the onset of metabolic diseases, especially type 2 diabetes. Patients with phenylketonuria who cannot metabolize phenylalanine should be careful about taking aspartame because of the phenylalanine content. Since phenylalanine and its derivatives that cannot be metabolized can accumulate in the blood and cause brain damage, individuals must be very careful in this regard.
In a very valuable study, it was found that the use of sweeteners increased the feeling of hunger, and there was a significant increase in hunger and desire to eat, especially 30-60 minutes after consumption of aspartame. Because during the consumption of aspartame, the GLP-1 hormone in the body is suppressed and thus you get more hungry and need to eat. In addition, the decline of the GLP-1 hormone means the decline of the microbiota. This cycle causes major problems by causing obesity and diabetes. Excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may be responsible for Turkey’s high obesity rates. Aspartame also alters taste receptors, influencing eating preferences. The issue of obesity and diabetes must be put on the agenda, as must cancer. The effect of sweeteners in packaged foods on obesity becoming an epidemic in Turkey should not be forgotten.
NO PLACE FOR ARTIFICIAL SWEETS IN HEALTHY FOOD!
Based on my 28 years of experience, I do not recommend any of the artificial sweeteners in a healthy diet because they increase the risk of cancer and intestinal imbalance. I can say that the study of more than 100 thousand people, published in PLos Medicine in 2022, proves this suggestion. The study shows us that those who consume foods or drinks that contain high levels of aspartame are at high risk for all types of cancer, especially breast, colon and liver cancer.
Packaged and ready-to-drink drinks that you consume to cool down in hot weather contain aspartame. You always prefer natural alternatives that do not contain additives and preservatives. You can make your own juice or smoothie, add fruit particles to your mineral water and color it. Neither a diabetic nor a healthy person should include artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, in their diet. I would like to underline this important warning once again.