Anyone who’s tried to lose weight at least once heard about artificial sweeteners. And if you have any blood sugar issues, you’re probably even more familiar with them. Most intermittent fasting methods allow you very few calories during your fast. Using sugar in your coffee or tea is an absolute no, but what about some of the most common sweeteners? Does aspartame break a fast?
The answer depends on the quantity you’re consuming and the reason why you’re fasting. A fast for gut rest or autophagy will be broken due to how aspartame is metabolized. For fat and weight loss or blood sugar management, a little aspartame occasionally should be ok. Long-term consumption, however, may lead to several issues.
Let’s explore the topic of aspartame, when, and how you can consume it if you fast, its benefits, and its side effects.
What is aspartame?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. You will often see it used in sugar-free products such as diet sodas and desserts. It is one of the oldest and best known artificial sweeteners. But it is also one of the most controversial ones.
While it is recommended for people with diabetes because it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels, prolonged aspartame use has been linked to insulin resistance, so moderation is required.
Does aspartame break a fast?
In small, occasional doses, aspartame doesn’t cause an insulin response, so it doesn’t raise your blood sugar. That means that it doesn’t break a fast that is aimed at weight loss or blood sugar management.
Research tells a different story in the case of long-term use. Aspartame may in fact alter the gut microbiome and in time, this will alter the way your body response to different foods, including artificial sweeteners. Prolonged use of aspartame has also been linked with insulin resistance, which, if left untreated, may lead to type 2 diabetes.
If you’re fasting for gut rest or autophagy, it is best to stay away from aspartame. This sweetener is digested and metabolized in the body, which means it stimulates the GI tract. On top of that, phenylalanine, one of the compounds found in aspartame inhibits autophagy.
Can I put aspartame in my coffee or tea?
Again, the answer depends on various factors. If you’re aiming for gut rest or autophagy, the answer is clearly ‘no’.
However, if you’re aiming for fat loss or blood sugar management, you can have some aspartame. Ideally, though, try not to use it daily. Try to use more natural sweeteners like stevia to avoid insulin resistance.
You should also pay attention to the fact that artificial sweeteners may make it harder to fast because they increase hunger. That’s because our brain is ‘programmed’ to expect calories whenever we eat or drink something sweet. In other words, if you add aspartame to your coffee or tea first thing in the morning, but don’t plan on eating until noon or later, there’s a risk you’ll have a very difficult time going through your fast.
Does aspartame cause weight gain?
Sadly, there are studies that show aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain.
The first issue comes from the fact that our body expects energy when we consume something sweet. But it goes beyond that. Real sugar, even though it causes many issues, also comes with temporary appetite suppression. That does not happen with artificial sweeteners. In other words, your brain expects energy when consuming food. Your brain might get some sort of food but the energy and appetite suppression never happens. So you’re left needing more food, feeling hungrier than before.
The repeated exposure to artificial sweeteners also makes you crave more sweets than normal. In other words, aspartame messes with your hunger cues and your cravings. From there, there’s not too long until you start overeating and gaining weight.
The other issue comes from the phenylalanine and aspartate, two chemicals contained in aspartame. We already know phenylalanine is responsible for inhibiting autophagy. But it also interferes with an enzyme called intestinal alkaline phosphate which is responsible for preventing metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes. Since phenylalanine interferes with its function, your body has a harder time fighting against such issues.
Side effects of aspartame
Its main side effects have already been highlighted here: weight gain and an increased risk of insulin resistance.
While it is generally considered safe and approved by the FDA, aspartame’s effects on the gut microbiome and the metabolism can be quite serious. On top of that, there are claims aspartame could worsen symptoms or increase the risk of headaches, dizziness, seizures, multiple sclerosis, cancer, lupus, ADHD, and more.
Are there any benefits to consuming aspartame?
Among all these side effects, it may seem like there are no benefits to consuming this artificial sweetener. While there are plenty of healthier alternatives, someone with type 2 diabetes could have some benefits consuming aspartame in moderation. The biggest benefit is that it can be easily used in any recipes. The very sweet taste allows you to use a small quantity, keeping the desserts low-calorie.
The bottom line
Aspartame may not be the healthiest sweetener on the market, but in moderate quantities, it is fairly safe and it won’t break your fast if your goal is fat loss or blood sugar management. While it doesn’t technically break your fast, it can make it a lot harder to abstain from food.
Those fasting for autophagy and gut rest need to stay away from aspartame. Because it is metabolized in the body, it stimulates the GI tract, while the phenylalanine inhibits autophagy.
Despite its side effects, you can still occasionally have aspartame as a part of a healthy diet. It is a great sweetener to use in recipes when you need to keep your dessert low-calorie since its sweetness allows you to use small quantities.
If you want a healthier, natural sweetener, take a look at Stevia.
Other good artificial sweeteners are: