Friday, June 11, 2010

Artificial sweeteners and health

So about a month ago now I dropped my diet cola habit. I was drinking 2-3 diet colas per day, partly due to a caffeine habit, partly due to the fact that I LOVED the taste (crazy, eh?). When I decided to overhaul my diet, I resolved that the diet drinks had to go. There really wasn't any argument for keeping them in.

Hydration? Water.

Caffeine? Coffee or tea, which both have other health benefits.

I used to get regular migraines. I take two different drugs to prevent them, as well as magnesium which has been shown to reduce their number. After I stopped the diet colas, my migraines reduced even more. I was amazed. I've only had two since, and they weren't that bad in comparison to past migraines.

The ND that I am seeing told me that aspartame is metabolized into formaldehyde which is neurotoxic, which can explain why getting rid of diet drinks (and other artificial sweeteners) may have helped. As a scientist, I of course needed to look in the literature.

I haven't done a comprehensive review yet, and you should never base your conclusions on single studies. I was able to verify that metabolites (the chemicals your body turns the aspartame into) of aspartame can include methanol (think cow farts!) and formaldehyde (think high school dissection projects). Some authors suggest that these metabolites can harm brain functioning, for example in this article: Direct and indirect cellular effect of aspartame on the brain.

I still need to do more research to get a better sense of how real these potential harms are. There seem to be many animal studies on lab mice, rats and cell cultures, however it is important to look at the effect on humans as well as we know that mouse models are not always directly translated into human effects.

Nonetheless, an interesting start.

And really, I can't see any good reason to continue drinking diet soft drinks anyways.

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