All Things in Youth Sports

Aspartame: How big of a deal is it?

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Key facts:

  • Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners available.
  • You may know it under brand names like NutraSweet® and Equal.®
  • It was discovered in 1965 and began to show up in foods and beverages in the 1980s.
  • It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar.
  • It is regulated by the FDA.

What’s positive about it:

  • Because it is 200 times sweeter than sugar, it does not nearly as much aspartame as sugar to sweeten a food or drink.
  • It doesn’t enhance the chance of having tooth decay.
  • Many studies have confirmed that it is safe for children, pregnant women, diabetics and people trying to lose weight.

What is negative about it:

  • There have been growing warnings about possible side effects, such headaches, memory loss and heart palpitations. Some studies claim that menthanol breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde, a deadly neurotoxin.
  • A recent study by Massachusetts General Hospital suggests aspartame may not be promoting weight loss because it blocks a gut enzyme that prevents obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • Scientists from Purdue University think that fake sugar in diet sodas teases your body by pretending to give it real food. And that causes the body not to release the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure.

What food and drinks contain aspartame that you might use for team snacks?

  • Fruit punch
  • Fruit juice
  • Hot chocolate
  • Yogurt
  • Pudding
  • Frozen ices
  • Gelatin
  • Cookies

If you worry about possible side effects of artificial sweeteners on smaller bodies, then go for snacks and beverages that utilize natural ingredients, or are created from nature like water and fruit. New artificial sweeteners continue to enter the market to compete with sugar, such as sucralose, a new sweetener being adopted by popular soda companies. There will likely be more studies forthcoming as the first generations to consume artificial sweeteners started as long as 25 years ago.

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