So I was in Wal-Mart yesterday doing some grocery shopping. Scott and I are trying to be healthier, so we were picking out light yogurt-the kind that's fat-free and has artificial sweeteners in it. So I was picking some out and telling Scott how that yogurt has fewer calories and no fat so it's better for you and good for digestion, and a man nearby turned to me and said, "May I add something?" I expected him to chime in and agree with me that it was a healthier choice, so I said "Sure". He pointed to the word "aspartame" and (pronouncing it incorrectly) said "Aspartame is really bad for you."
I restrained myself. I just said "I have a degree in chemistry and I don't agree with you". And then I walked away. I said it as politely as I could with a smile on my face.
Here's what I wanted to say:
The only study that has ever shown an artificial sweetener to cause cancer was many years ago in California. Not only have those results never been replicated since, but the original "results" of the study were on rats, anyway.
Now let's pretend..I mean assume...that aspartame does have a teensy tiny chance of causing cancer.
Even if this assumption is true, the risk is far overshadowed by the damaging effects of eating too many refined sugars and too many calories. I mean, come on. Obesity, which is caused by too many calories in the first place, causes coronary diseases and diabetes. It's a walking death sentence, and it cuts quality of life drastically. Trust me, I know. I was obese, technically, and I was always sick, always tired, always physically miserable in some way or another and it was horrible.
Now let's take a look at diabetes. If a person eats too much sucrose (table sugar) he or she risks developing type 2 diabetes. If this person instead indulges in naturally sweet items containing glucose and fructose (plant sugars), these sugars have a less pronounced effect on blood sugar. This effect has been shown to be directly related to the development of diabetes. Artificial sweeteners, like plant sugars, also have a less pronounced effect on blood sugar (as do sugar alcohols, in case you were wondering), and so are a better option than table sugar in that regard.
So let's recap. Aspartame (and sucralose, and saccharin, etc.) offers a person with a sweet tooth the option of having something delicious that has fewer calories and a less pronounced effect on blood sugar.
Let's see. If I have the choice of eating something healthier that has a 0.0000000000001% chance of causing me cancer vs. something with more sugar that will give me diabetes and gain weight, am I going to choose the artificial sweetener?