Diet versions of sweetened drinks were once seen as a calorie-free alternative to indulge, but research detailing the dangers of artificial sweeteners continues to pile up. The latest study out of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston suggests that aspartame, the fake sugar that gives most diet drinks their sweet taste, may actually contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome. Aspartame has a contentious past, from claims of causing cancer to acting as a weight loss aid, but the latest research may give a better idea as to its internal effects on the body.
In the MGH study, mice who were given aspartame in their drinking water gained more weight and developed more symptoms of metabolic syndrome than those who had no aspartame. Metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of conditions that, when occurring together, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Symptoms include central obesity (or being “apple shaped”), high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and insulin resistance. What the MGH study showed was the way that may explain why aspartame contributes to metabolic syndrome.
By slowing the release of a specific enzyme (intestinal alkaline phosphatase or IAP), aspartame may actually cause more harm than good. This enzyme appears to have a role in preventing metabolic syndrome. By lowering levels in the body, aspartame can be harmful to those trying to stave off the symptoms and effects of metabolic syndrome. While these studies strongly indicate the harmful effects of diet drinks, they also do not advocate for sweetened beverages! It is becoming increasingly more evident that both aspartame-sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages can have detrimental effects on human health. It’s best to stick with naturally sugar-free drinks, like Hint!
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