Thursday, 17 March 2011

Aspartame, you were my first love

In the days when we bulk bought

My love affair with aspartame started when I was just 11 years old. It was the summertime, the perfect time to enjoy a nice warm can of 1Cal. 1Cal as I recall was one of the first brands of 'diet' drinks. It came in very few flavours, those I can't remember. Anyway, this was around the time when I became diabetic. When eventually I discovered (though probably not much later, but in child years it seemed an age) you could get Diet Coke, and much later, Diet Irn-Bru (Scotland's other national drink, as they say) it revolutionised my world.

Diet Coke according to the UK website was first introduced into the UK in 1983, and nowadays apparently "more females drink Diet Coke every day than any other soft drink brand". I certainly fit into that category.

Some 20+ years later, I have at last listened to my mother's incessant nagging that she's sure aspartame isn't good for me and I have stopped. Totally and utterly. I stopped the Diet Irn Bru addiction a while back due to the lack of availabilty in Germany. But the Diet Coke habit did continue.

In actual fact it wasn't my mother's nagging that has made me stop, but an email that I got from a friend that made me actually think and consider that there was a possibility that aspartame was affecting my health. This email looked totally like one of those typical spam emails that you get with about 4 different font sizes used, and usually I wouldn't have read it. But I did, and there was the usual thing about how this guy's sister was practically at deaths door, could no longer walk, etc, etc, and suddenly he remembered an email from a friend he had got about aspartame poisoning and he told her to stop drinking diet drinks. So blah, blah, blah it goes on and then it starts listing some symptoms. Oh because in this email it says that the aspartame breaks down in your body into formaldehyde etc, etc, and goes on to say that it can present problems in a person that may seem an awful lot like lupus or MS.

So here's the thing with me. Over the past few months every morning I wake up and I get out of bed and my feet are really stiff and I feel like I am near enough hobbling about until they ease off. I've also had some stiffness in my fingers since I think about January last year, which I put down to carrying really heavy shopping baskets daily in Tesco.

Anyway, these sort of symptoms are sort of (I wouldn't say directly) mentioned in this email, so I thought 'rather than worrying when I've got too much time to think, that I've got arthritis, I might actually stop my intake of aspartame and see if there's any difference'. So I have stopped, and haven't had any Diet Coke for 3 days and already I am not getting the stiff feet thing in the morning, nor in my fingers. Isn't that odd?

I have to say, I did drink a massive amount of Diet Coke. It wouldn't be unusual for me to drink 2 litres nearly a day. So I am going to stay off it (though I have to say I am missing it terribly) and see how it goes. But I am completely surprised by the change in how my feet feel in the morning. I'm also wondering whether now I'm not topping myself up with formaldehyde on a daily basis whether I suddenly start aging dramatically. I'll do an update in a few months and see how it's going.


  1. Good luck!! It'll be worth it if it is the cause of your symptoms. I gave up sweet things for 3 weeks last year as they formed 90% of my diet and it was a huge struggle but I did it.

    I'll be checking back to see how it goes x

  2. Thanks, I may be transformed in a month at this rate! Feel so much better.

  3. Good grief that's scary. But crumbs, 2 litres a day, that's impressive: I thought I used to have a habit but apparently my 3 tins a day was nothing (first one on the tube on the way to work after two cups of tea: now I think about it, that wasn't good, was it). I gave up caffeine about three and a half years ago, I really, really miss my first diet coke of the day but I feel an awful lot more human without it. Good luck :)

  4. Oooh, interesting! I am terrified of any sweeteners myself, so I never got why people would drink them. But then I don't get smoking either and lots of people do that. I hope your feet stay better.

  5. Blimey! Good on you for stopping. I too am a Diet Coke addict but haven't yet managed to stop. I have however cut down. I must admit that I have not experienced any of the problems you have but it is starting to affect my sleep now! Wishing you all the best with keeping up the non-drinking of the stuff :)

  6. Still going strong! After the initial good results, I had kind of expected to have emerged a new, more beautiful me from an aged aspartamed husk, but no joy. Will keep waiting.

    Oh and Sarah, I am years of Coke drinking ahead of you! You have time yet, enjoy it while you can. :)


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