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Aspartame and Weight Gain

Updated on August 16, 2011

My Love Affair with diet Colas

I have been a foodie for as long as I can remember. Most foodies do not begin the food journey with a solid understanding of nutritional and balanced eating. When I was a young, body image obsessed foodie I hated my thighs and bootie. I would look in the full length mirror each morning and vow to never eat again. For a time that worked but then noon rolled around and I exchanged starvation for binge eating.

I made myself dizzy riding the diet pendulum from starvation to binging and back to starvation. I attempted to settle the pendulum on the side of starvation aided by diet soda. I lived off Tab in the 1970s . I transitioned easily from saccharine to aspartame in 1981 and traded Tab for the full spectrum of diet sodas that hit the market. I was ecstatic that I could fill up on zero calorie diet cola and have the added benefit of lots of energizing caffeine. The plan sounded good but did not work out so well. I could not seem to beat the insatiable simple carbohydrate cravings that, after years of aspartame abuse, eventually overwhelmed me every afternoon. I had no idea why I craved simple carbs like I did but I knew that if this continued then I would trade my larger jeans in for yet larger jeans.

A health foodie suggested that I look into the role that aspartame plays in weight management. She rightfully pointed out that most diet soda junkies, like me, struggled with that extra 20 or 30 or 40 pounds. I could not deny the correlation between aspartame and extra weight. Indeed the case against aspartame was not difficult to build.

Aspartame contributes to weight gain in at least three ways:

1. Aspartame causes cravings for simple carbohydrates and refined sugar. This artificial sweetener contains the amino acid phenylalanine. This amino acid does not pose health risks for most people when it occurs naturally in foods but when it is in the form of a phenylalanine isolate it suppresses the formation of dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that work together to regulate metabolism and food cravings. If serotonin levels do not rise when you eat carbohydrates then you will crave more and more food. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that causes you to feel satisfied. If both serotonin and dopamine are inhibited then the body will crave more and more simple carbohydrates without satisfaction and will fail to metabolize those extra calories. The diet cola in your hand has no calories but the bags of chips, crackers, and cookies you crave (and consume) have plenty of calories! My diet became a "Super size me" nightmare!

2. Another major component of aspartame molecule is methyl alcohol. Methyl alcohol prohibits the body from breaking down food properly. Food simply cannot be metabolized in the normal manner. This causes severe acidosis in the event of methyl alcohol poisoning and chronic acidosis for the habitual drinker of diet beverages. The body that cannot metabolize its food properly will gain weight.

3. The neuroexcitotoxins found in aspartame act upon the brain to stimulate appetite. These toxins do not actually alter the taste of food but because they stimulate the appetite, food tastes better. Furthermore this is a potent chelating agent which carries heavy metals including arsenic into the body. Arsenic destroys your metabolism by blocking the body's ability to burn calories, thus promoting weight gain.

I gave up aspartame 6 months ago. It has been a difficult journey but I am glad I braved the hard times. When I gave up my favorite diet cola the cravings diminished and I lost 8 pounds in 3 weeks. My appetite for nourishing foods has increased and I truly feel better. I can be a foodie AND manage my weight better without my favorite diet cola. Score!

Helps with Weight management

An A-Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce
An A-Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce

This is a great reference guide for those who are concerned about what is added to their food. It is compact enough to fit in your purse. It will prove to be a handy guide when you are reading labels!



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    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you! It was an eye opener to me when I discovered that diet colas are anything but diet friendly.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I haven't had any kind of a cola drink in years and only drank a few diet ones decades ago. It is good that you are exposing the dangers to health by writing about the use of diet colas with regard to weight gain. It may be a wake up call for many out there! Voted up, interesting and useful. Will also tweet.

    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you for the comment. It is amazing that weight loss often happens after giving up diet colas.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Thank you for exposing the dangers of aspertame. A dear friend was also a diet Coke addict but, since moving to S. America, has given up the habit and lost weight! This is a great hub and I hope it helps many people.

    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Washington

      Goodness! I know what you mean about not drinking just one diet cola but drinking many every day. I was a total diet cola junkie. It was hard giving it up even when I kept caffeine in my daily diet. It was not just the caffeine but the whole package deal. There is something terribly addictive about diet colas.

    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 5 years ago from Washington

      It sure helped me to give it up but it is one tough habit to break. Good luck!

    • Dubuquedogtrainer profile image

      Dubuquedogtrainer 5 years ago from Dubuque, Iowa

      Thank you for this useful information - I have known aspartame is harmful for a long time, but hadn't thought about it in terms of weight management. This is good information to know and all the more reason to try and break the habit once again!

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      The problem with diet soda is people don't usually drink one. I know a girl who comes back from lunch each day with a biggie soda that's huge and she's extremely over weight.

      Having one soda a day will not contribute to weight gain, it's the 5-7 sodas a day. Maybe try cutting out half the soda and substitute it with water, or try flavored water, just check the label for natural flavors. Adding orange and lemon slices to a pitcher of water is a great way to flavor water naturally and it actually help remove toxins from the body.

      There are a lot of options to chose from, but soda is easy because it's lurking around every corner in vending machines and every fast food drive through.

      Good luck on your quest Mary, and good article, food for thought for people with a soda problem, vote up and interesting :)

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 6 years ago

      interesting Mary Stuart...although cathylynn99 suggests digging a little deeper into the research. I don't drink a lot of soft drinks but I did recently switch back to diet in an effort to cut back on 0-300 calories/day. I could easily switch to water. I also like artificial sweetener in tea, although I'm not sure they all contain aspartame. I have been having a daily craving for a honey bun from the vending machine daily at 4:30! Those are 600 empty calories!!! I'll switch to water and see what happens. Thanks for the food for thought:)

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

      stevia has not been tested for safety. it's a pig in a poke. you wouldn't eat crab apples just because they're natural, would you?

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Congrats on breaking the aspartame habit! Ever tried Stevia? Was just wondering if that might be a viable alternative.

    • sassyk73 profile image

      Karen A. Harris 6 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      Thank you for sharing. I am going to take your advice. Voted up!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Very interesting. I am going to look into this.

    • Mary Stuart profile image

      Mary 6 years ago from Washington

      I got my info from a collection of articles my naturopath gave me. I asked her about aspartame and weight management a few months ago. When I gave up diet colas I lost 8 pounds in 3 weeks. I changed nothing except my consumption of my favorite diet cola. I noticed a change in my appetite. In fact, my insatiable cravings for simple carbohydrates diminished quite rapidly. I suppose the weight loss occurred because I no longer consumed copious amounts of simple carbs. I simply craved them no more. :) Kudos to your ex-fiancee that he lost weight with the aid of aspartame and that you maintain your ideal weight AND get to drink diet cola. Such was not the case for me. I have begun to spread the message by word of mouth in my area and have witnessed several women lose weight just like I did.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

      the american dietetic association has issued a statement that aspartame is useful in weight loss. when my ex-fiancee changed from pepsi to diet pesi, he lost ten pounds. i am at my ideal weight and drink a diet coke each day.

      i would like to know where you got your information.