Most people have heard of the the artificial sweetener called Aspartame and the controversial arguments that seem to follow it. Although aspartame is made from a mixture of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine, which are both found in foods and used by the body as building blocks for proteins, it is not derived from natural sources but rather from hydrocarbons or from fermentation. Since it is made from amino acids, aspartame will cross the blood-brain barrier.... scary stuff. I personally don't recommend the use of aspartame at all and I feel that it isn't completely safe.
I could go into detail about my general health concerns regarding aspartame: that some investigations indicate that aspartame can damage the nervous system or brain, not only in rats but also in humans; that there are concerns that it can cause mood and behavioral changes, epileptic like seizures, insomnia, depression, headache and even menstrual disorders; and that its effects have been known to mimic Multiple Sclerosis in certain sensitive people. However, there is truly not enough scientific evidence to support this. I had a dear and very close friend who had breast cancer several years ago. After she recovered she continued to drink diet soda daily and I warned her about my concern regarding a connection with aspartame and cancer but she said she enjoyed drinking it too much. Unfortunately, she developed bone cancer and passed away in a short time.... I would hate to think that the aspartame had anything to do with her recurrence of cancer but I really believe that it didn't help matters.
What HAS been scientifically proven is the fact that aspartame does NOT help people lose weight. When we consume foods or drinks with aspartame our brain thinks that its receiving sugar (energy) but when the sugar energy doesn't come, the brain wants and craves more (sugar). The end result is over-eating. I have dealt with numerous people who are overweight and who consume a great amount of diet sodas daily.
Another concern I have is with children, whose smaller bodies and organs are more susceptible to the detriments of food additives such as aspartame. Like food coloring, aspartame (as well as MSG) can cause problems for children who are sensitive to its effects. Aspartame is a chemical and our bodies have to process this chemical--I wonder what a chemical like this can do to a child's small liver.
It is always better to eat the naturally sweet foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to obtain an adequate level of vitamins, fiber and minerals along with that sweet flavor. It also comes down to bringing our cultural "sweet tooth" into balance. If you do want to consume a sweet drink, its better to go with the real thing, sugar.... something that our bodies already know how to break-down and digest properly. In moderation of course. A better option is stevia, an herb that has been used by some cultures in the world for thousands of years.
For more information on aspartame, please see a link to Dr. Mercola's website: http://aspartame.mercola.com/