|The beauty ideals have changed over the years. Coke, however, is still there. But are we going to say the same about the aspartame in diet coke 50 years from today? I don't think so - regardless of what the science says...|
But let's not fast forward too much and rather take a peak at the review Karol Rycerz & Jadwiga E. Jaworska-Adamu from University of Life Sciences in Lublin (Poland) recently published in a special issue of Folia Neuropatholgica (Rycerz. 2013).
Actually their paper starts out like one of the countless "aspartame is the devil" articles you would expect to see when you type the words "aspartame" and "cancer" into a search engine. Yet despite the fact that they refer to aspartame as a "widespread sweetener used in many food products" that is considered "a highly hazardous compound" (Rycerz. 2013), the abstract to their review also mentions that
"[...] the action of astrocytes during aspartame poisoning may be advantageous for neuro-protection." (Rycers. 2013)This statement is not just surprising it does also conflict with the authors' self-declared aim to "demonstrate the direct and indirect role of astrocytes participating in the harmful effects of aspartame metabolites on neurons" (Rycerz. 2013) and reminds you of the literal fish out of water.
The authors leave no doubt: They think aspartame is dangerous
|The results of a study from the University of Western Sidney to suggest that you could keep your insulin levels at bay, if you mixed your sugary intra-workout supplement with aspartame-laden diet coke instead of water (learn more)|
Despite the fact that we are thus still not 100% sure how dangerous aspartame actually is, it is probably not as benign as the pre-2012 data may have suggested. Against that background Rycerz' and Jaworska's elaborations shouldn't be discarded as totally irrelevant. It does after all appear logical that ...
- ... the reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin in response to the aspartame induced presence of excess amounts of phenylalanine that blocks the transport of important neurotransmitter precursors (tryptophan, l-tyrosine & co) to the brain, as well as the
- ... the neuronal hyper-excitability that's caused by the high aspartic acid concentrations in the presence of other excitatory amino acids like glutamates
Hyperexcitatory, toxic, dangerous and protective?
While it is a matter of fact that the activation of the glia by the presence of smaller amounts of glutamate, aspartate and other excitatory neurotransmitters in response to aspartame consumption may exert hormetic effects by inducing corresponding autoregulatory effects that re-establish normal neurotransmitter levels and reduce the potential (over-)expression of the cancer promoting pro-inflam-matory cytokines IL-1, IL-6, TNF-α, PGE2. This is up to now nothing but a hypothesis.
Questionable "brain health effects": While you may remember that Carl and I talked about the beneficial effects / necessity of inflammation, when it comes to getting rid of degenerate cells in several of the recent episodes of the Science Round Up (read up on hormesis, as well), I highly doubt that you will be able to hit that "sweet spot" of maximal hormesis, where a minimal amount of aspartame toxicity is going to give you an increase in your brains endogenous defense system that would not just negate the potential downsides, but exert the "neuroprotective"effects Rycers et al. imply in the abstract of their review.
|Suggested Read: "Coke vs. Diet Coke vs. Milk - The Unhealthy Beverage Shoot-Out: Milk Reduces, Coke Increases Visceral Fat. Dreaded Diet Coke on Par With Plain Water" (read more)|
For the true aspartame junkies, on the other hand, the sheer amount of other potentially health threatening agents, like citric acid, phosphor, carmine coloring and co may eventually be so high that they become a much greater thread to your health than the comparatively minor amounts of aspartame in the chemical cocktails that are marketed as healthy alternatives to regular sodas.
- Iyyaswamy A, Rathinasamy S. Effect of chronic exposure to aspartame on oxidative stress in the brain of albino rats. J Biosci. 2012 Sep;37(4):679-88.
- Roberts HJ. Does Aspartame Cause Human Brain Cancer? J Adv Med 1991; 4: 231-241.
- Rój A, Stasiuk E. Oznaczenia jakościowe w zakresie zawartości aspartamu i jego metabolitów w napojach gazowanych bezalko -holowych z zastosowaniem techniki HPLC. Bromat Chem Toksykol 2009; 3: 543-547.
- Rycerz K, Jaworska-Adamu JE. Effects of aspartame metabolites on astrocytes and neurons. Folia Neuropathol. 2013;51(1):10-7.