You would think that foods associated with weight loss would be good for you, right? In the case of aspartame you may want to think twice. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used as a sugar substitute for foods like diet soda. Aspartame is not good for the human body and should be avoided, especially prior to trying to conceive and through pregnancy. It has been linked to infertility and birth defects through DNA damage and endocrine disruption, which leads to hormonal imbalance. If that wasn’t bad enough, aspartame consumption has been linked to a variety of other major health issues such as autoimmune disease, ADD, ADHD, hypothyroidism and the list goes on.
Aspartame is made up of three elements: phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. Does this sound like something you should be eating? I try to stick to a food rule, if I can barely pronounce an ingredient listed on the label, it probably shouldn’t be eaten.
Are You Consuming Aspartame Daily?
It is absolutely vital to protect your own health, so that when you get pregnant, the health of your baby is protected as well. Think about what you are eating daily. If any of the foods you are eating list the ingredients aspartame, phenylketonurics which contains phenylalanine, avoid purchasing or consuming it.
Aspartame is sold under the names NutraSweet® and Equal® in the United States. Just think of the little blue packets at every diner and cafe table across the country. Aspartame is everywhere. Most sugar free foods contain aspartame. Diet soda, chewing gum, sugar free jellies and jams, hot cocoa mixes, some chips, some Weight Watchers® meals, some cooking sauces, some yogurts, some drink mixes and cereals. Be a label reader prior to purchasing food at the supermarket!
Why should aspartame be avoided though? Here are 5 very important reasons we consider anything containing aspartame to be anti-fertility foods.
5 Reasons to Avoid Aspartame
1. Protect Your Body from Cell Death
Aspartame is made up of two amino acids found in food we normally eat daily, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. The problem with this though is that these two amino acids are only considered natural and harmless when eaten in combination with other amino acids. When eating alone they enter the central nervous system in higher than normal concentrations. This may cause an abnormal firing of neurons and potential cell death.
Alone, phenylalanine and aspartic acid are considered excitotoxins, which stimulate the generation of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cell structures. Some free radical production is normal, for example free radicals are made during energy production. The problem though is that chemicals in our environment can also create free radicals. Overexposure to free radicals speeds up the aging process.
Aspartame is but one toxic chemical that we can avoid to protect cellular health. This is important because the ova (egg) and sperm are single cells. In fact, the entire human body is made up of about 100 trillion cells. In order to sustain health of cells, avoiding anything that creates the formation of free radicals in the body is imperative to reproductive health.
2. Potential Damage to DNA
DNA is the genetic code within each cell. Both the ova and sperm pass this genetic code on to offspring. Research has pointed to the potential of aspartame damaging the DNA within cells.
Aspartame is temperature sensitive. When exposed to temperatures above 86 degrees fahrenheit or stored long-term, phenylalanine converts into diketopiperazine (DKP), which is a known carcinogen. On top of that, 10% of aspartame is absorbed into the blood as methanol. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that a mere 7.8 milligrams of methanol is the daily safety limit for consumption. The scary truth though is that a one-liter diet soda typically contains 56 milligrams of methanol. This is eight times the EPA suggested safety limit. When kept at cold temperatures, methanol will convert to formaldehyde. Studies have shown that formaldehyde formation resulting from aspartame ingestion accumulates in cells, then interferes with DNA replication.
3. Developing Babies are Easily Impacted
Have you ever heard of the blood-brain barrier? This is a specialized system comprised of high-density cells that restrict the passage of certain substances, like toxins, from the bloodstream. This protects the brain from harmful substances.
The blood-brain barrier is forming and incomplete in a developing baby in the womb and up to the first twelve months of life. This means aspartame can be easily passed to a developing fetus and baby through the placenta and later through breast milk. Prior to birth, the placenta concentrates the amount of amino acids passed to the fetus. This means that the levels of phenylalanine and aspartic acid in the fetal blood will be four to six times greater than the levels in the mother. These levels run the risk of potential birth defects.
Other studies have shown that infants are four times more sensitive to excitotoxins, which aspartame is.
4. Aspartame Affects Insulin Levels
So does aspartame actually help overweight people lose weight? Well we already have learned that aspartame doesn’t help a person to be healthier, so what is it doing to the body’s blood sugar levels?
Some studies point to phenylalanine and aspartic acid actually stimulating insulin release. These strong and rapid spikes in insulin remove glucose from the bloodstream and signal the body to store it as fat. The result is hypoglycemia and sugar cravings. This may cause weight gain over time.
Any quick, consistent, daily changes to insulin levels is dangerous, especially for overweight-obese people, women with PCOS or those with diabetes.
Stevia would be a much better option as a no calorie sugar substitute. Be sure the stevia you consider purchasing is pure and organic!
5. Aspartame is NOT FoodOne of the most important things to consider when trying to get pregnant is what you put into your body. Each food you put in your mouth is not only making up your body, but is going to help develop your child. Even before a child exists, the egg and sperm do. What a person eats daily impacts the health of those eggs and sperm. Consuming a variety of man-made chemical additives may be damaging to the health of your body and that of your future children.
I am not suggesting anyone go out and choose to consume a ton of sugar instead, or even choose another artificial sweetener. To put this in perspective, it is probably just as damaging, to consume a cup of sugar than it is to consume a soda with aspartame. Other artificial sweeteners such as Splenda®, which is sucralose, carry their own risks and research. I find it best to consume whole foods, with natural ingredients you can pronounce. Our Fertility Diet guidelines can help you transition to a whole food diet.
The Bitter Truth of Aspartame: Legally Poisoning American Society Genevieve Smith. PDF
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