Aspartame! Chances are you’ve heard from a coach like me that swapping full-calorie sodas for diet sodas is a great way to reduce your calories and lose weight. Chances are also you’ve seen some private account with no profile picture and 3 followers tell you aspartame is poison or better yet…
Let’s start from the very beginning…
In the 1960’s a chemist named James Schlatter was working on an anti-ulcer drug.
Later, as he was reading a book, he licked his finger to turn a page (or so the story goes) and he tasted something sweet.
Little did Mr Schlatter realise he had accidentally discovered something which would not only create an entire industry…
But also completely divide the internet.
Chances are you’ve heard from a coach like me that swapping full-calorie sodas for diet sodas is a great way to reduce your calories and lose weight.
Chances are also you’ve seen some private account with no profile picture and 3 followers tell you aspartame is poison or better yet…
“Low-calorie sweeteners trick your body into thinking you’re consuming calories and therefore make you store body fat.”
Let’s investigate that a little more…
What does the research say?
This 2005 study found that high intakes of aspartame were linked with more lymphomas and leukaemias.
That’s not great, right?
The media went crazy.
The good news for us, is this study was done on rats.
And they were consuming about the equivalent of 10 cans of diet coke per day.
Did I mention they were rats?
To put it in comparison for humans, we’re looking at about 2000 cans per day.
What does the FDA say?
Before food can hit the shelves, it goes through testing and analysis under the FDA (or a similar governing food agency in different parts of the world).
The FDA has said 50mg/kg of bodyweight in aspartame is safe - or about 21 cans of diet coke for an 80 kilogram or 180 pound individual
Aspartame is approved for human consumption in over 100 countries.
In fact, hundreds of millions of humans have consumed aspartame in some form over the past 20 years.
If it was truly as evil and toxic as some people claim it is, perhaps we would all be dead by now?
But what about the weight gain thing?
I mean it certainly tastes too good to be true, doesn’t it?
This 2012 randomised control trial told one group of people to swap their regular sodas for low-calorie alternatives like diet sodas and water.
Lo and behold, the group that started drinking diet soda and water instead of regular soda lost more weight.
It’s almost as if they were having less calories or something?!
This 2014 meta-analysis found a clear association between consumption of artificial sweeteners and lower body weight, BMI and waist circumference.
So it seems, when the choice is diet soda or water… Water is probably the better choice.
But sometimes you want something fizzy, right?
When the choice is between a full-sugar soda vs a diet soda… Diet soda is the better option for fat loss.
On a side note, have you ever heard people make that joke:
“I’ll have a double whopper with cheese, large fries… And better make it a diet soda”
Why are we making fun of that?
That diet soda is a good decision, you’re saving 200-400 calories right there!
Okay but what about that one friend who gained weight drinking lots of diet soda?
Chances are they simply ate too many calories and would have gained even more weight, had they been drinking regular soda instead.
Or… They fell for the “food fallacy”, and thought:
“Well because I’m drinking diet soda, now I don’t need to watch what I eat.”
Swapping regular soda for diet soda is great, but it might not be enough on its own.
Quick fire recap on aspartame:
- We’ve got about 200 studies on humans that confirm aspartame is safe, as long as we’re not drinking 2000 cans of soda per day.
- However, some people with rare disorders like PKU should avoid aspartame.
- Also, if you’re a rat, and you’re injecting it straight into your brain - be careful.
- Drinking diet soda is better than drinking regular soda, for weight loss.
- But if you’re drinking so many diet sodas to the point where you find regular water disgusting… You might want to cut back on the diet sodas.