Healthy eating can be very daunting for many people who didn’t grow up learning those habits. Nowadays, there is so much information on food, exercise and how those things impact your health and the science around it that hopefully healthy habits will start to be easier for next generations. But for those of us who did not have these ingrained in us from the start I’m going to give you the one secret to making it manageable and a few tips on how to execute it!
Today we celebrate World Diabetes Day to raise global awareness of a disease that affects an estimated 382 million people worldwide. The theme for 2014 is Healthy Living and Diabetes, so I asked Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, a nutrition counselor and diabetes expert, to join me today so we could learn more about diabetes.
Jill has written 21 Things You Need to Know About Diabetes and Your Heart, which will be available in February. Jill is also a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Recently the folks over at aspartame.org sat down with Robyn Flipse, a registered dietitian specializing in food, nutrition and health communications, to talk about aspartame and debunk many of the myths that surround this extensively researched low-calorie sweetener.
Below are some of the questions they covered.
Q: Aspartame is in many of the diet drinks I enjoy. What is it, exactly?
Robyn: Twenty amino acids make up all of the different types of proteins found in the plant and animal kingdom, just like the 26 letters in the alphabet make up all the words in the English language. When two of these amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, are put together to make aspartame they produce a compound that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are naturally found in thousands of protein-rich foods, such as meats, grains and dairy products, while aspartame is used in over 6000 products around the world.
Q: How can aspartame help me lose weight?
Robyn: The biggest advantage to using aspartame when you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain is that it has no calories, so when used in place of sugar it can help reduce your total caloric intake. It is best to think of it as another tool to assist you in your weight loss efforts, along with keeping a food diary, measuring your portions and using a pedometer to count your daily steps.
Q: Some people say aspartame can make you gain weight, is that true?
Robyn: A review of the scientific research on aspartame and weight management concluded that the use of aspartame by adults does not increase hunger, appetite or food intake. However, if aspartame is used in foods and drinks that contain other sources of calories, such as oatmeal or chocolate pudding, and you eat too much of them, you could exceed your daily caloric requirement and gain weight.
Q: What are some other benefits of using aspartame besides lowering my caloric intake?
Robyn: Aspartame can help improve the quality of our diets by making other foods that deliver important nutrients taste better so we will eat them, such as yogurt. It can also increase our satisfaction with meals and snacks by allowing us to enjoy something sweet once in a while without feeling guilty. Since aspartame does not promote tooth decay aspartame can contribute to good oral health. Aspartame can also help people with diabetes control their blood glucose level when they use it to replace added sugars and lower the total carbohydrate in their meals.
Q: How much aspartame can my children and I enjoy in our foods and drinks each day?
Robyn: In the U.S., the FDA is charged with determining the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for food ingredients, such as aspartame. The ADI is set at a level that has been determined to be safe for everyday consumption for a lifetime without risk. The ADI for aspartame is 50 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) body weight.
To figure out your ADI for aspartame, you must first know your weight in kg. You can get that by dividing 2.2 into your weight in pounds. Next you must multiply that number by 50 to see how many mg per day of aspartame you can enjoy.
EXAMPLE: If you weigh 150 pounds, divide that by 2.2 and you get 68 kg. Now multiply 68 by 50 and you get an ADI for aspartame of 3,409 mg per day. A child who weighs 50 pounds would weigh 27 kg and have an ADI of 1,364 mg aspartame per day.
Q: How can I figure out how much aspartame is in the diet drinks, low calorie foods and tabletop sweeteners I use?
Robyn: Before trying to calculate your daily aspartame intake, it is important to note that the amounts used in commercial products are so small it is very unlikely any of us would ever consume enough aspartame to reach our ADI. If we did, however, that does not mean it would be unsafe. A wide safety margin is built into the ADI to insure that even if you reach or exceed it, you are not immediately at risk.
EXAMPLE: 12 ounce diet soda sweetened exclusively with aspartame contains about 192 mg. A 150 pound person would have to drink 17 cans a day to reach their ADI. A 50 pound child would have to drink 6 cans a day to reach their ADI
One tabletop sweetener packet made with aspartame,has about 35 mg of the sweetener in it. A 150 pound person could use 97 packets a day and a 50 pound child could use 32 packets before reaching their respective ADIs for aspartame.
Q: What happens to aspartame after I eat something containing it?
Robyn: The three components absorbed after aspartame is digested are aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. They are found in many other foods we eat every day and are indistinguishable from them. Regardless of the source, they are all used to build new proteins to and regulate other bodily functions.
Q: How much aspartame are most people actually consuming?
Robyn: Food intake records collected from consumers indicate the biggest users of aspartame-sweetened products are consuming between 5% -10% of their Acceptable Daily Intake. Data from sales reports for aspartame-sweetened products suggests use by the general public is well below Acceptable Daily Intakes.
What to know more? Check out the whole Q&A here. Still didn’t get your questions answered? Ask them in the comments below and we’ll follow up!
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