aspartameIf you’re picking up a soda and you’ve got weight loss, calories or healthy-eating on your mind, do you opt for the sugar-laden, original variety or the sugar-free, zero-calorie variety? Doing the latter may seem like the smart, healthy choice, but the truth is that it could actually be hindering your health and weight loss efforts rather than helping.

Sugar-free foods usually contain aspartame, a synthetic sweetener which has zero calories and replicates the tasty sweetness of sugar-laden food and drink. Although they can be found in a variety of foods, you’re probably most aware of them beverages, particularly sodas. For many of us, drinking a soda packed full of sugar seems like we’re consuming empty calories, so the zero-calorie, aspartame alternative seems like a sensible option. However, several major, reputable studies have agreed that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain.

Sweeteners Block Gut Enzymes

Studies have found that aspartame blocks the activity of alkaline phosphatase (IAP), an enzyme found in the gut which is known to prevent diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. By blocking this enzyme, aspartame stops the body from processing food in such a way that prevents these serious conditions.

Mice were used to test the study; some were fed a high fat diet, others a normal diet. In each diet group, some were given water with aspartame and others were given normal water. In the high-fat diet group, the mice which drank aspartame gained more weight than those which did not. Not only that: mice that consumed aspartame from both the high-fat and normal diet groups had higher blood sugar levels, which indicates intolerance to glucose, a precursor to diabetes.

Aside from obesity, diabetes, and metabolic issues, aspartame is also linked to frequent headaches and depression. There have even been studies to suggest that artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of cancer. With so many aspects of health at risk from aspartame, it’s clear then that it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to sugary drinks, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight.

Alternatives to Aspartame and Other Artificial Sweeteners

Now that you know the dangers of aspartame, you may be wondering what to do when a craving for something sweet strikes. It is just as risky to turn to sugary sodas and beverages, so try to choose something else entirely. Sour tasting items are a good way to counteract sweet cravings; try adding a little lemon or lime juice to some water – you’ll be amazed at how quickly your cravings disappear. If it’s the fizz of soda you’re in the mood for, choose plain soda water instead and add in fresh citrus juice.