The popularity of sugar substitutes cannot be gainsaid. After all, they are supposed to be healthier substitutes for sugar, right? Not quite.
One of the best-known artificial sweeteners is aspartame. It is used by people trying to lose weight or battling various sugar-related issues, including diabetes. This is because artificial sweeteners, also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, are calorie and carbohydrate free.
Since calories and carbohydrates have become almost synonymous with weight gain, gravitation toward substitute is only natural. But there is a price to pay.
Many find that they have to acquire the taste for artificial sugar substitutes. Let’s face it, natural sugar substitutes don’t quite taste like real sugar either. But with artificial sweeteners, you may also be increasing the risk of developing other health conditions.
Aspartame is available in various brand names, Equal and NutraSweet being among the better-known ones in the USA. It is also found in a number of diet drinks.
Aspartame has been linked to various health issues, some mild and others serious. These include headaches, dizziness, digestive symptoms, mood changes, birth defects, Parkinson’s disease, and lupus. And it may not even be effective in what it mainly used for.
A recent study suggests that it may actually have the opposite effect for the main reason for using it; weight loss. How?
Researchers found that aspartame may contribute to a condition known as metabolic syndrome. This means that it might actually make you gain weight. But what is metabolic syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is defined as a group of factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other problems, such as diabetes and stroke. These factors include a large waist (abdominal obesity), high triglycerides, high fasting blood sugar, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
The way aspartame may contribute to metabolic syndrome is that it inhibits a key gut enzyme known as intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP). This enzyme has been shown to prevent metabolic syndrome in mice. IAP works in the small intestines to break down cholesterol and fatty acids.
The details of the research are a little complicated and beyond this post. But it appears that aspartame contributed to more weight gain in mice that were on a high fat diet. You can read more on this at the LiveScience website.