The sugar-free, zero calorie Diet Coke and Coke Zero contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener used as a substitute for sugar, might not be upholding to its aim of helping you lose weight. On the contrary, it might lead to health complications, even obesity.
Diet Coke is more often than not associated with people trying to lose weight, but according to this study by a team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, aspartame — sugar substitute used in Diet Coke and similar products — may promote glucose intolerance in your body and can even lead to obesity.
In their report published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the researchers point out that aspartame interferes with an enzyme present in our guts called intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP), which is essential in preventing obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Aspartame an artificial sweetener which is 200 times sweeter than sugar and produces four kCal of energy per gram, but due to the tiny amount used in the production of a single Diet Coke can, the calorie count is negligible.
It is also considered one of the closest substitutes to Sucrose in terms of taste.
The Test Concluding Ill-Effects of Aspartame
To test the effects of aspartame on IAP, the researchers examined four groups of mice over a period of 18 weeks.
Two groups of mice were fed high-fat diet — the first received water with high amounts of aspartame while the second received plain water alongwith the diet.
The third and fourth group were fed regular diet — while one received water with significant amounts of aspartame, the other was given plain water.
The mice drinking aspartame mixed water were consuming an equivalent of three and a half cans of Diet Coke per day.
Researchers found that while there was negligible difference between the weights of the two groups of mice who were fed regular diet, the ones who received aspartame alongwith high-fat diet gained considerable weight when compared to to the ones who were fed the same diet but with plain water.
Also, both the groups of mice which received aspartame as part of their diet showed higher blood sugar levels and higher blood pressure, which the researchers relate to glucose intolerance.
“Aspartame might not work because, even as it is substituting for sugar, it blocks the beneficial aspects of IAP. While we can’t rule out other contributing mechanisms, our experiments clearly show that aspartame blocks IAP activity, independent of other effects,” Dr Richard A. Hodin, senior author of the report and MD of Department of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital told ScienceDaily.
The research was conducted on mice, but similar enzymes also line our smaller intestine, and the effect of aspartame on these enzymes can be disastrous for a healthy living in the long run.
“Sugar substitutes like aspartame are designed to promote weight loss but a number of clinical and epidemiologic studies have suggested that these products don’t work very well and may actually make things worse,” Dr Hodin added.
If you’re still adamant on losing weight using Diet Coke and other such products, it’s entirely up to you — to each his own.