We are all well-aware of the health risks that are associated with sugar. It has been linked to a variety of problems such as obesity, heart disease and tooth decay. As a result of this, many of us have turned towards sugar alternatives in an attempt to satisfy our sweet tooth without destroying our body. However, there has not been as much of a focus on the health effects of these sugar alternatives as there is on sugar, specifically on one of the most popular sugar alternatives: aspartame.
Aspartame Health Risks
Aspartame poisoning is a serious and common side effect of consuming this sugar alternative that many people do not know about. Aside from being reported to cause a variety of unpleasant and sometimes seriously dangerous side effects in regular, healthy people, aspartame has also been proven to be poisonous to those born with the condition phenylketonuria.
Aspartame and Phenylketonuria
Phenylketonuria is a condition that people are born with that makes them unable to properly digest an amino acid called phenylalanine. This amino acid also happens to be one of the main components of aspartame, making it incredibly dangerous for individuals with this condition to consume it.
If individuals with phenylketonuria are exposed to high levels of phenylalanine than they can experience a variety of dangerous side effects including:
- Delayed development
- Behavioral problems
- Psychiatric problems
- Musty odor
- Skin disorders (such as eczema)
Although all of these side effects are very serious and can be incredibly harmful, even deadly at times, the worst side effect caused by phenylalanine is permanent intellectual disability. If young children or babies diagnosed with phenylketonuria are exposed to high levels of phenylalanine it can have permanent effects on their brain as it is still developing, making it very important for young children to avoid any products containing aspartame.
Common Aspartame Side Effects
Although aspartame can be deadly for people diagnosed with phenylketonuria, it can also be very harmful for the average, relatively healthy person. One report filed by the Aspartame Toxicity Information Center found that a large percentage of people who ingested aspartame experienced a variety of different side effects. It is reported that, after ingesting aspartame:
- 45% of test participants experienced headaches
- 39% experienced dizziness, unsteadiness or both
- 29% experienced confusion or memory loss
- 25% experienced vision problems such as blurriness, bright flashes and tunnel vision
- 25% experienced severe depression
- 23% experienced extreme irritability
- 19% experienced severe anxiety attacks
- 15% experienced convulsions (seizures)
- 14% experienced severe insomnia
These are only the most prevalent side effects associated with consuming aspartame, other slightly less common effects included the development of hives, symptoms of tinnitus such as ringing of the ears, joint pain and severe allergies.
It is especially concerning that such as a large amount of these test participants experienced psychiatric problems such as symptoms of depression, irritability, anxiety and insomnia. This suggests that aspartame has negative effects on the nervous system and brain that many are unaware about, meaning consuming aspartame does not only effect your physical health but your mental health as well.
Just because aspartame is bad for you doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of healthy sweeteners out there. In fact, many of these natural sweeteners can actually provide you with health benefits, here some of the best ones available:
Stevia. This is probably the second most popular sugar-alternative sweetener, right behind aspartame. It’s low in calories and is used for both sweetening and medicinal purposes. Its incredibly low calories content combined with that fact that it is a lot sweeter than typical sugar means that it adds very little to your overall calorie intake.
Consuming stevia has also been associated with several health benefits including the ability to lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure and also its ability to lower blood sugar levels in. In several animal studies it has also been shown to reduce plaque build up in the arteries.
Yacon Syrup. This is a relatively less-known sweetener that is harvested from the Yacon plant, which is native to South America. It is commonly used as a as some studies have found that it can cause significant weight loss in women. It is also very high in soluble fibers which feed good bacteria in the intestines and improve digestion.
Xylitol. This is a sugar alcohol that has a sweetness that is almost that same as sugar. It has been shown to have many bone-protective benefits, including improving bone density, which helps in preventing osteoporosis. It has also been shown to improve dental health, reducing the risk of developing cavities and tooth decay. It has also been shown to not raise blood sugar levels.
Aspartame can be found in many products that claim to be sugar-free, including most products from NutraSweet. Always make sure to check the label to ensure the sugar-free product you’re about to eat is aspartame-free as well.