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  1. I have found an alarming scientific article on aspartame https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24700203 It looks that it is a really dangerous substance, perhaps even more than thought by most. The article concluded that doses much smaller than recommended daily intake influence people's neurobehavioral health, i.e. participants who consumed aspartame were prone to depression and other mental ailments such as irritation.  I would like whatishealthy.info scientists to look for similar researches and comprehensively write on aspartame effects on our brain in layman terms
  2. Aspartame: a daily toxin

    It was previously approved for use in 1974, but its approval was put on hold due to objections filed by neuroscientist[1] Aspartame is a compound consisting of 3 chemicals: methanol, and the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is a non-nutritional food additive (European Food Safety Authority [EFSA] additive code E951), which means that it has no nutritional value and is regulated by EFSA. Aspartame was approved by the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) for use in dry goods in 1981 and in carbonated beverages in 1983.Dr John W. Olney (who found aspartame caused holes in the brains of mice) and consumer attorney James Turner (who believed aspartame could cause brain damage), and investigations into the research practices of G.D. Searle, who did not inform the FDA of one study in which an infant monkey died after 300 days’ consumption of milk sweetened with aspartame.[1] [2] Following aspartame’s approval in the US, it quickly also gained approval in the UK in 1982, after a review of its safety by the UK's Committee on Toxicity, Consumer Products and the Environment.[3] This then led to European-wide approval of aspartame with the universal adoption of the EU Sweetener Regulations (94/35/EC) in 1994.[4] Today aspartame is widely used as a non-nutritive sweetener, as a replacement for sugar. As excessive sugar is linked to numerous health conditions including diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, substituting with an artificial sweetener would seem to be beneficial for health. However this may not necessarily be the case. Aspartic acid (also known as aspartate), one of the components of aspartame, acts as neurotransmitter in the brain, facilitating the transmission of information from neuron to neuron. The excess of aspartate in the blood shortly after ingesting aspartame could therefore lead to a high level of these neurotransmitters in certain areas of the brain.[5] This surplus of neurotransmitters in the brain can kill neurons by allowing an influx of too much calcium into the cells.[6] This influx triggers the production of excessive amounts of free radicals, which destroy the cells. These chemicals are known as “excitotoxins” because they “excite” or stimulate the cell to death.[7] Disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The behaviourFurthermore, exposure to non-nutritional food additives during the critical developmental window during childhood has been implicated in the induction and severity of blood brain barrier (BBB), which protects the brain from excess glutamate (a breakdown product of aspartate), aspartate and other toxins, is not completely developed until after birth.[8] The brains of unborn and young children are therefore not fully protected from toxin exposure, such as that caused by excessive aspartame ingestion. In adults the efficacy of the BBB can also be reduced as a consequence of chronic and acute conditions.[9] However, even when intact, the BBB permits seepage of excess aspartate and glutamate into the brain, which slowly destroys neurons through excitotoxicity as described above. [10] Whilst the quantities of non-nutritional food additives in single servings may be considered “safe”, the cumulative effect of several ingested together is, at the very least, questionable.[11] Aspartame is known to have the potential to cause adverse effects, which can be serious, including seizures.[12] The severity of these reactions can be the result of unnoticed cell death within the brain, which is highly plastic in its ability to cope with widespread cell death.[13] In the light of what evidence is available, it is therefore perhaps advisable to limit aspartame intake.   [1] Nill, A (2000) The History of Aspartame. Retrieved October 2016 from, https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8846759/Nill,_Ashley_-_The_History_of_Aspartame.pdf?sequence=3 [2] FDA (2003) Docket #02P-0317 Recall aspartame as a neurotoxic drug: file #7: aspartame history. Retrieved April 2016 from, http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/Jan03/012203/02P-0317_emc-000202.txt [3] FSA (2016) Aspartame. Retrieved April 2016 from, https://www.food.gov.uk/science/additives/aspartame [4] Ashurst, PR. (2008) Chemistry and Technology of Soft Drinks and Fruit Juices. Retrieved April 2016 from, https://goo.gl/NVEN1M [5] Kudo, Y, Ogura, A. (1986) Glutamate-induced increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration in isolated hippocampal neurones. Br J Pharmacol. 89(1). 191-8. [6] Arundine, M, Tymianski, M. (2003) Molecular mechanisms of calcium-dependent neurodegeneration in excitotoxicity. Cell Calcium. 34(4-5). 325-37. [7] Olney, JW. (1994) Excitotoxins in foods. Neurotoxicology. 15(3). 535-44. [8] Marc, T. (2013) Brain development and the immune system: an introduction to inflammatory and infectious diseases of the child’s brain. Handb Clin Neurol. 112. 1087-9. [9] Yang, Y, Rosenberg, GA. (2011) Blood-brain barrier breakdown in acute and chronic cerebrovascular disease. Stroke. 42(11). 3323-8. [10] Choi, DW, Koh, JY, Peters, S. (1988) Pharmacology of glutamate neurotoxicity in cortical cell culture attenuation by NMDA antagonists. J Neurosci. 8(1). 185-96. [11] Lau, K, McLean, WG, Williams, DP, Howard, CV. (2006) Synergistic interactions between commonly used food additives in a developmental neurotoxicity test. Toxicol Sci. 90(1). 178-87. [12] Humphries, P, Pretorius, E, Naude, H. (2008) Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. Eur J Clin Nutr. 62(4). 451-62. [13] Wieloch, T, Nikolich, K. (2006) Mechanisms of neural plasticity following brain injury. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 16(3). 258-64.
  3. Sweet drinks lead to soured health

    Sweet-tasting “soft” drinks are any beverage to which sugar or other low calorie sweeteners have been added. These include: Sodas Colas Fruit punch Lemonade and other fruit-flavoured carbonated drinks Sports drinks Energy drinks Sweetened, powdered drinks Fruit or veg juice  It is widely accepted that soft drinks are a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic. Levels of obesity are increasing in tandem with consumption of calorie- laden drinks, which has increased five-fold since 1950.[1] In addition to the other  negative aspects related to weight gain, increased sugar consumption may also be associated with metabolic syndrome.[2] Metabolic syndrome is the term for a cluster of risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein.[3] This syndrome is dangerous to health, as it is linked with the development cardiovascular disease and diabetes.[4]  The calorific value of an average can of soda, cola or fruit punch is 150 calories. Most of these calories are derived from sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup.[5] This is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar, which, when consumed regularly, can contribute to weight gain.[5] Drinking just one can of a sugary drink per day can potentially result in a weight gain of 5 pounds in a year, assuming other calorie intake is not reduced.[5] And it isn’t just the effects on weight and metabolism that are concerning, the inherent acids and sugars in soft drinks result in dental caries and potential enamel erosion if consumed regularly.[6]  Furthermore, drinking sugary beverages does not satisfy the appetite or reduce solid food consumption, despite their high calorific value.[7] This is because fluids do not give the same satisfaction or feeling of “fullness” as solid food and the body doesn’t “register” liquid calories as it does those from solid food.[7] It is also possible that sweet-tasting drinks (whether sweetened with sugar or a low calorie substitute) actually stimulate the appetite for sweet, high carbohydrate foods. A 2014 study highlighted that consumers of sweetened drinks, even if low calorie, tended to have a generally poor diet, with increased consumption of high carbohydrate foods.[8]  Surprisingly, replacing sugary drinks with natural fruit juice is not necessarily a healthy option as although fruit juice is more nutritious, it can contains just as many calories as sugary drinks in the form of naturally occurring fruit sugars, such as fructose. Studies in both adults and children have shown that reducing sugary drink intake (including fruit juice) can lead to better weight control among those who are initially overweight,[9] and that simply replacing sugary drinks or fruit juice with water is also associated with lower long term weight gain, as a result of reduced calorie intake.[2] As well as weight control, a reduction of sugary drink intake can also result in metabolic improvements.[9]  Substituting sugary drinks for diet versions may also not be as beneficial as might be expected. Non- nutritive sweeteners (very low or zero calorie substances) used in diet versions of soft drinks are associated with numerous health risks. They are, surprisingly, known to be linked to metabolic changes and obesity,[10] and it has previously been speculated that they may increase the risk of certain types of cancer, although this theory has been discredited.[11]  Studies have shown that people who drink 1 or more ‘diet’ drinks per day are 67% more likely to develop diabetes than those who don’t drink any.[10] The established links between soft drinks and obesity, poor dental health and metabolic syndrome make a definite case for reducing intake, which could result in an improvement of overall health. The healthiest option of all? Stick to pure water instead of sweetened drinks to avoid souring your health. [1] Bray, GA, Popkin, BM. (2014) Dietary sugar and body weight: have we reached a crisis in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes?: health be damned! Pour on the sugar. Diabetes Care. 37(4). 950-6. [2] Vartanian, LR, Schwartz, MB, Brownell, KD. (2007) Effects of soft drink consumption on nutrition and health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Public Health. 97(4). 667-75. [3] Grundy, SM, Brewer, B, Cleeman, JI, Smith, SC, Lenfant, C. (2004) NHLBI/AHA Conference Proceedings. Definition of the metabolic syndrome. Circulation. 109. 433-8 [4] Grundy, SM. (2015) Metabolic syndrome update. Trends Cardiovasc Med. [Epub ahead of print] pii: S1050-1738(15)00249-2 [5] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2015) Sugary drinks. Retrieved April 2016, from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/  [6] Moynihan, P, Petersen, PE. (2004) Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. Public Health Nutr. 7(1A). 201-26 [7] Pan, A, Hu, FB. (2011) Effects of carbohydrates on satiety: differences between liquid and solid food. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 14(4). 385-90. [8] Piernas, C, Mendez, MA, Ng, SW, Gordon-Larsen, P, Popkin, BM. (2014) Low-calorie and calorie-sweetened beverages: diet quality, food intake, and purchase patterns of US household consumers. Am J Clin Nutr. 99(3). 567-77. [9] Pan, A, Malik, VS, Hao, T, Willett, WC, Mozaffarian, D, Hu, FB. (2013) Changes in water and beverage intake and long-term weight changes: results from three prospective cohort studies. Int J Obes (Lond). 37(10). 1378-85. [10] Nettleton JA, et al. (2009) Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care. 32(4). 688-94. [11] Weihrauch, MR, Diehl, V. (2004) Artificial sweeteners - do they bear a carcinogen risk? Ann Oncol. 15(10). 1460-5.
  4. Gain weight by going 'diet'

    What is healthy diet Sweeteners, used as sugar replacements, are compounds that are so intensely sweet that only a little is needed to replace a larger amount of sugar. They are available in two forms: natural sweeteners of plant origin and synthetic, artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners include glycyrrhizin, thaumatins, rabaudioside, stevioside, monellin, perillaldehyde and osladin.[1] Another natural product, miraculin, is not actually sweet, but transforms our perception of sour taste into sweet taste.[1] Artificial, or synthesised, sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K and sucralose.[1] Among all sweeteners, artificial sweeteners are consider the worst for us, as they are thought to impact on our health, despite artificially sweetened products often being advertised as “diet” alternatives thanks to their reduced calorie content. This ‘diet’ label comes from old studies that showed artificially sweetened products can assist in weight loss and weight maintenance.[2] However, although sweeteners provide intense sweetness with minimal or no calories, studies suggest that they may actually increase appetite.[1] This can actually lead to increased carbohydrate cravings, boosting the inclination to overindulge.[3] [4] Some studies have also showed that artificially sweetened drinks are linked with an increased incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, although no causal link was identified.[5] One study of 3,682 individuals examined the long-term (7-8 year) relationship between ‘diet’ drink consumption and body weight.[6] Even after adjusting for other weight-gain risk factors (such as exercise and diet), results showed that those who regularly consumed ‘diet’ drinks had a 47% higher BMI increase across the follow-up period than those who did not. Another recent study that followed 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years, found that their waists grew 70% more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. In addition, those who drank two or more diet sodas per day had, on average, nearly 4 times the  increase in waist size during the 10 year study period compared to non-diet soda drinkers.[7] These effects are thought to potentially stem from the way that artificial sweeteners and sugar affect the brain. By providing sweetness without any calories, it is thought that consumption of artificial sweeteners can cause us to crave other sweet foods and drinks, which can contribute to excess calorie consumption. This is because artificial sweeteners provide less ‘sweetness satisfaction’, and actually reduce the ‘reward’ obtained when going on to consume actual sugar.[4] This means that, not only does the artificial sweetener not fully satisfy sweetness cravings, it also reduces how rewarding actual sugar is, and thus more is ingested. This is further supported by results from a study at the University of California, San Diego, in which volunteers underwent functional MRI scans as they took small sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose. Sugar activated regions of the brain involved in food reward, while sucralose didn’t.[8] In addition to these effects on carbohydrate cravings and weight gain, reports also suggest an association between the consumption of aspartame, a widely used artificial sweetener, and neurological and behavioural reactions.[9] Furthermore, aspartame has also been shown to have the potential to induce serious adverse reactions, including seizures.[10] Thus when trying to be healthy, opting for ‘diet’ options may not be the quick fix it first seems. Not only can artificial sweeteners cause numerous health problems, they can also actively contribute to weight gain, increased BMI and the development of type 2 diabetes. These sweeteners are therefore perhaps not so sweet after all.   [1] Sardesai, VM. & Waldshan, TH. (1991) Natural and synthetic intense sweeteners. J Nutr Biochem. 2(5). 236-44. [2] Bellisle, F. & Drewnowski, A. (2007)  Intense sweeteners, energy intake and the control of body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 61(6). 691-700. [3] Rudenga, KJ. & Small. DM. (2012) Amygdala response to sucrose consumption is inversely related to artificial sweetener use. Appetite. 58(2). 504-7. [4] Yang, Q. (2010) Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yale J Biol Med. 83(2). 101-8. [5] Fagherazzi, G. et al. (2013). Consumption of artificially and sugar-sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in the Etude Epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la Mutuelle Generale de l'Education Nationale-European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 97(3). 517-23. [6] Fowler, SP. et al. (2008) Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight gain. Obesity (Silver Spring). 16(8). 1894-900. [7] Fowler, RP. et al. (2015) Diet soda intake is associated with long-term increases in waist circumference in a biethnic cohort of older adults: the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. J Am Geriatr Soc. 63(4). 708-15 [8] Frank, GK. et al. (2008) Sucrose activates human taste pathways differently from artificial sweetener. Neuroimage. 39(4). 1559-69. [9] Lindseth, GN. et al. (2014) Neurobehavioural effects of aspartame consumption. Res Nurs Health. 37(3). 185-93. [10] Maher, TJ. & Wurtman, RJ. (1987) Possible neurologic effects of aspartame, a widely used food additive. Environ Health Perspect. 75. 53-7.
  5. Risks and benefits of Honey vs. Sugar

    What is healthy sugar Granulated sugar, which is the most common type of sugar used for sweetening our cups of tea and coffee, consists of a mixture of 50% glucose and 50% fructose (the sugar naturally found in fruit). The pure sugar content of a 100g of granulated sugar is 99.8g, which has a calorific value of 387kcal. 100g of honey, however, has a smaller pure sugar content of 82.1g, and a lower calorific value of 304kcal. This is not the only difference, as honey is only about 30% glucose, and less than 40% fructose.[1] In addition, honey is more complex than granulated sugar, as it contains many other sugars, as well as proteins and amino acids.[2] Honey also may contain small quantities of minerals (e.g. selenium and zinc), trace elements and some vitamins.[2] This varies depending on the region from which the honey was sourced and from what plants the bees gathered nectar etc. One of the roles of our digestive system is to convert carbohydrates to glucose, for use as energy. The components of granulated sugar are broken down very easily, providing a surge in blood glucose levels.  Any excess glucose not immediately required is converted in fat and stored in the body. Many of the sugars contained in honey are more complex than those in granulated sugar, meaning that the amount of energy required to break them down into glucose is greater.[3] This can mean that the amount of calories you absorb are actually less than those from an equivalent calorific value of granulated sugar. The nutritional value of honey over and above calorific content is totally dependent on its source. It can range from being just a sugar substitute (with a slightly lower calorific value) to actually being quite nutritious. As stated above, honey contains traces of numerous vitamins and minerals,{2} which can have beneficial effects on the body. Honey has also been found to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and to assist in the process of wound healing.[4] In fact honey is now included in some proprietary dressings. Furthermore, honey does not ‘go off’ or  deteriorate in quality over time and so has no requirement for any preservatives or any other food additives, which can themselves have adverse effects on health.[6][7][8] Whilst its relatively high sugar content means that the consumption of large quantities of honey should be avoided, its healthier composition than granulated sugar means that, as a sugar substitute, honey could be a healthier option. Furthermore, honey can have many beneficial components such as antioxidants with anticancer actions,[9] found in particularly high levels in good quality honey purchased from a reliable, genuinely organic source.   [1] USDA (2016) Full Report (All Nutrients): 19296, Honey. Retrieved April 2016, https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6287?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=35&sort=&qlookup=honey&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby= [2] Bristol University (2001) Chemical composition of honey. Retrieved April 2016, from http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2001/loveridge/index-page3.html [3] Elia, M. & Cummings, JH. (2007) Physiological aspects of energy metabolism and gastrointestinal effects of carbohydrates. Eur J Clin Nutr. 61 Suppl 1. S40-74. [4] Postmes, TJ. et al. (1997) Speeding up the healing of burns with honey: An experimental study with histological assessment of wound biopsies In bee products. Springer, US. [5] Lay-flurrie, K. (2008) Honey in wound care: effects, clinical application and patient benefit. Br J Nurs. 17(11). S32-6. [6] Yim, E. et al.(2014) Contact dermatitis caused by preservatives. Dermatitis. 25(5). 215-31. [7] Konikowska, K. et al. (2012) The influence of components of diet on the symptoms of ADHD in children. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 63(2). 127-34. [8] Vally, H. et al. (2009) Clinical effects of sulphite additives. Clin Exp Allergy. 39(11). 1643-51. [9] Ahmed, S. & Othman, NH. (2013) Honey as a potential natural anticancer agent: a review of its mechanisms. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. [epub] doi: 10.1155/2013/829070