Did you know that half of the United States population over the age of two drinks sugary beverages on a daily basis? The figures can be higher, as this statistic does not include 100 percent fruit juices, flavored milk, or sweetened teas. This high consumption has actually contributed to rising obesity rates among American adults and children.
In an article published in the Guardian Express, it was reported that children are 40 percent heavier today compared to 25 years ago. A growing number of studies points to the increased consumption of sugar-laden beverages as the primary culprit.
According to the Guardian Express article:
“[O]ne cup of your child’s favorite sugary drink contains nearly 11 teaspoons of sugar, at 128 calories per serving. If you equate that to a child having, on average, one cup of any soft drink containing these ingredients with each meal, that is an additional 384 calories or more each day just in beverages.”
With the growing realization of sugar’s negative effects, sales have been down for top beverage manufacturers like Coca-Cola. This is why they release anti-obesity campaigns that urge people to fight this epidemic — they’re promoting beverages with artificial sweeteners like aspartame as an alternative to sugar-rich drinks.
Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola says that while sugar – specifically fructose – is the top source of calories in the US, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are just as dangerous. Rather than promote optimal weight management, aspartame actually promotes obesity and other health problems.
The Myths Surrounding Calories and Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are promoted to have little to no calories, and Coca-Cola’s anti-obesity campaign is based on the belief that calories are equal, in spite of where they come from, and that consuming more calories than you burn results in weight gain. This is a great misconception, according to Dr. Mercola.
“The truth is, you do not get fat because you eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough. You get fat because you eat the wrong kind of calories. At the end of the day, your consumption of carbohydrates, whether in the form of grains and sugars (especially fructose), will determine whether or not you’re able to manage your weight and maintain optimal health,” he says.
Refined carbohydrates like fructose and grains trigger the production of the hormone insulin, which regulates fat. This is why soda and sugary drinks are harmful. But diet sodas packed with artificial sweeteners are just as bad. Research states that artificial sweeteners:
- Increase your appetite
- Promote your cravings for carbohydrates
- Stimulate weight gain and fat storage
A report published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism found that those who drank diet soda were prone to health problems linked to the consumption of regular soda, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
In another study, it was determined that aspartame not only had a more severe impact on insulin sensitivity compared with sugar, but it also affected brain function.
How Aspartame Is Metabolized in Your Body
In the Aspartame Safety page created by the Coca-Cola Company Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness, they state that “[w]hen aspartame is digested, your body breaks it down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.”
Although methanol is a dangerous substance, the beverage company claims that it occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and should not be a cause for worry. What they don’t tell you is that in fruits and vegetables, methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, which allows the substance to be eliminated from your body without any negative effects.
Another important fact to consider is that aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The latter has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which is responsible for aspartame’s sweetness. With the weak phenylalanine methyl bond, the methyl group easily breaks off and forms methanol, which transforms into formaldehyde inside your body.
Unlike animals, which have a protective mechanism that converts methanol to formaldehyde and then into harmless formic acid, humans cannot metabolize methanol. Instead, the methanol is carried to your tissues where the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) turns it into formaldehyde. This carcinogenic byproduct then causes great damage to your tissues.
There are adverse health effects associated with aspartame, such as:
- Ear buzzing
- Nausea and dizziness
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Memory problems
- Behavioral issues
- Poor vision
Quench Your Thirst the Healthy Way
Dr. Mercola recommends forgetting the belief that “a calorie is a calorie.” Controlling the number of calories you consume is useless if they come from fructose. Eating them will only increase your risk of obesity, metabolism problems, and insulin resistance.
He also strongly warns against the so-called health benefits of aspartame and diet sodas, which only do more damage to your health. Instead, ditch all sweetened beverages, especially the diet sort.
Dr. Mercola believes that the healthiest and most cost-effective drink is water. If you obtain water from the tap, make sure that you have a high-quality water filter that can effectively remove dangerous substances like chlorine or disinfection byproducts. If you’re used to drinking carbonated beverages, opt for sparkling mineral water with a hint of lime or lemon juice.
Another safe and healthy option is to get water from a mountain spring. Also known as gravity-fed water, this type of water has been filtered by the earth and contains beneficial microorganisms.
A great thing about natural spring water is that it’s free. All you need to do is store the water in glass containers; Dr. Mercola warns that plastic containers may leach dangerous chemicals.
Here are other diet tips from Dr. Mercola to help you manage your weight and remain disease-free:
- Avoid other processed foods rich in fructose, grains, and artificial sweeteners
- Eat a healthful diet rich in organic whole foods, such as:
- Organic vegetables
- Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein from organically-raised, grass-fed meats – About one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight.
- Consume more high-quality healthy fat, like saturated and monounsaturated fat. The best sources include coconut oil, avocados, butter, and raw nuts and seeds.