If you’ve rejoiced at finally having found yourself a “sugar-free” alternative to your favourite soft drink or chocolate bar, you’re not going to like what we have to tell you. While these foods may not contain added sugar, new reports show they may actually raise your risk for cancer. Not so sweet after all. The culprit? Aspartame. We’ll be uncovering which beloved supermarket products are harbouring this contentious sweetener, plus what it means for your health.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found the popular artificial sweetener to be possibly carcinogenic – this is a rank shared with diesel and aloe vera, so while it’s not quite ached the notoriety of cadmium or asbestos, it’s also not something to brush off, especially with research showing those who consume the stuff regularly are at a 10% increased risk for heart disease. You’re probably wondering if your favourite products contain this sweetener – and, chances are, if you enjoy a “sugar-free” soft drink variety, you’re probably drinking the stuff. Take a look at some of the common sources:
- Diet coke
- Coke Zero
- Pepsi Max
- 7 Up Free
- Sugar-free gums like Trident
So, what exactly is aspartame? Well, aside from the fact that it’s an artificial sweetener, it’s also known to pack 200 times the sweetness of the same amount of regular sugar, making it a popular alternative in “sugar-free” products. Now, the concerns around the safety of aspartame – and a host of other artificial sweeteners – aren’t exactly new, they’ve long been the subject of controversy. Some have hailed them as the solution to unhealthy sweets, while others have held them with scepticism. The reason comes down to some noticeable effects of sweeteners, for one, they can be hard for our digestive tract to process, with some experiencing bloating, constipation and diarrhoea after a brush with these sweeteners. On the more serious side of things, it can even lead to dysbiosis, which isa dysregulated gut microbiome – the consequences include increased risk of disease, inflammation and digestive issues. In fact, one study shows the integral role the microbiome plays in regulating the immune response to pathogens, so you won’t want to risk your gut health when choosing a substitute. Sugar alcohols have been reported to cause these gut issues, but xylitol may be tolerated a little better, so long as you don’t overdo it. Erythritol is another substitute which is easier on the gut, as the majority of it is absorbed by our small intestine, then excreted in our urine, giving our gut less of a rough time than other artificial sweeteners.
While previous studies haven’t found a link between cancer in humans and aspartame, studies have made the connection in rodents, with one study finding the substance to be a chemical carcinogen in rats. The full extent of the findings around aspartame will be revealed by the World Health Organisation on July 14th.
If you’re in need of something sweet, natural sweeteners – in moderation – can be a safer alternative. Take a look at some of our favourites:
- Rice malt syrup
- Monk fruit sweetener
But sticking to real, whole foods is a good way to avoid digestive discomfort and inflammation. Whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts and seeds, eggs and fermented foods all support a healthy gut – so keep the sweet stuff to a minimum, and prioritise these foods instead.
If you’re having a little trouble sticking to your health goals, why not join us for our 8-Week Program? We’ll be ditching sugar and transforming our health. It’s easier to make your goals a reality when you’ve got a team of experts rallying behind you and a tool chest of tips and techniques to manage cravings. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of expert-crafted meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support from the I Quit Sugar team, plus our panel of experts.
- Mental and physical health benefits that last a lifetime.
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