Aspartame has been help part of healthy diets for 35 years

The Most Studied Low Calorie Sweetener Turns 35 This Year

This blog was originally written for Aspartame.org. You can read that  post here.

The global population is aging at a faster rate than ever before in human history. Right now the number of people throughout the world over the age of 65 makes up 8.5 percent of the total population, or 671 million people according to International Population Reports.  That number is projected to jump to 1,566 million people by the 2050, making 16.7 percent of the world’s population over 65 years of age!

If you’re wondering what this has to do with aspartame and other no- and low-calorie sweeteners, there is a connection. Knowing you may live well into your 80s or 90s can provide the motivation for living better now to extend the quality of your life as you get older. That’s where aspartame can help.

 Benefits of Aspartame

Aspartame has been an approved food additive for over 35 years. Since its introduction into the food supply in the 1980s as an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar a growing body of research has demonstrated its role in a healthy lifestyle. The benefits most frequently reported are that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can aid in:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduction in the risks associated with obesity
  • Diet satisfaction with less added sugars and fewer calories
  • Eating a greater variety of healthy foods
  • Management of diabetes

Knowing low-calorie sweeteners can support weight management is significant because, along with getting older, the World Health Organization reports we are also getting heavier. In fact, obesity has more than doubled in the global population since 1980. Today overweight and obesity are the leading risk factors for noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers and are now linked to more deaths worldwide than being underweight.

If you want to prevent the chronic diseases that can strip away independence as you age, achieving a healthy body weight is one of the most important steps you can take. Using aspartame in place of sugar can help by providing a sweet taste to foods and beverages with few or no calories.  And it can be used by the entire family, not just those trying to lose weight, although any unintended weight loss should always be brought to the attention of your physician.

Aspartame is not a drug and, therefore, cannot produce weight loss without making other behavior changes, but it can be a valuable tool in maintaining a balanced and satisfying diet — and that can add more healthy and happy years to your life.

 Safety of Aspartame

The safety of aspartame has been rigorously monitored by food safety experts since it was first approved for use as a food additive more than three decades ago. New research from human and animal studies is regularly evaluated along with the existing body of evidence to determine any potential risk to the population at current levels of exposure or Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The experts report aspartame does not cause damage to the genes or induce cancer, does not harm the brain or nervous system, and does not affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults. They also have found no risk to the developing fetus from its use during pregnancy at the current ADI levels (except in women suffering from PKU).

Regulatory agencies representing more than 90 countries have conducted their own reviews of the scientific literature on aspartame and approved its use for their populations. This list includes the United States, Canada, the member countries of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), France, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. In 2013 the EFSA re-issued a Scientific Opinion on the safety of aspartame as a food additive and again concluded it was not a safety concern based on current exposure estimates and there was no reason to revise the ADI of 40mg/kg body weight per day.

It is reassuring to know there is a consensus among so many experts about the safety of aspartame, especially when conflicting reports from single studies hit the news. Living well into our nineties is a big enough challenge without having to worry about that!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness.  Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

More evidence that healthy diet and exercise increase longevity in women

How to Predict Longevity in Women

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

MORE EVIDENCE THAT HEALTHY DIET AND EXERCISE INCREASE LONGEVITY IN WOMEN

A new study on longevity in women adds further evidence to what seems to be a no-brainer by now: Eating fruits and vegetables and staying active extends your lifespan. Doing either one is helpful, but this research demonstrated that those who do both last the longest.

What made this investigation stand out for me is that it was just about women. Older women in fact.  Even though women in the U.S. now outlive men by at least 5 years, few studies are done exclusively on them. But all 713 subjects in this study were women between the ages of 70 and 79.

Women and Aging

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University and published in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It was designed to evaluate the combined benefit of a healthy diet and exercise on life expectancy since other research had shown each to have a positive impact independently of the other.

Level of activity was evaluated using a questionnaire that asked each participant the amount of time they spent doing structured exercise, household and yard chores, and leisure time activities.  That information was used to calculate the number of calories being expended by each subject.

26% were rated as ‘most active’ at the outset

21% were rated as ‘moderately active’

53% were rated as ‘inactive’ or ‘sedentary’

The quality of their diets was measured by testing the carotenoid levels in their blood. Carotenoids are compounds found in plants that serve as very good indicators of fruit and vegetable consumption.

All of the participants were then tracked for 5 years.

 Impact of Diet & Exercise After 5 Years

12% (out of the total 713) died during the 5 year follow-up

71% lower death rate among those in the ‘most active’ group compared to those in ‘sedentary’ group

46% lower death rate in women with highest carotenoid levels compared to lowest

Taken together, the women who were the most physically active and who had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were eight times more likely to survive the five year follow-up period than the women with the lowest levels.

Those are good odds to take.

Lead researcher Dr. Emily J. Nickett from the University of Michigan School of Social Work concluded that after smoking cessation, “maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity.”

What are you doing to control your destiny?

 

Moderation and good genes provide clues to longevity

Bacon, Soda, and Longevity – What’s the Connection?

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

Did you see the headlines earlier this summer proclaiming the world’s oldest person eats bacon every day? The story caught my attention since bacon is one of those “guilty pleasure” foods we all enjoy, and we now have evidence that a 116 year old woman has been eating it every day!

There are many other things that may have contributed to this woman’s long life, such as her genetic heritage (her grandmother lived to be 117!). She also naps regularly, eats three meals a day and has a loving family.

As with most things in a long life, it’s never that simple – Spoiler alert: bacon is not the key to longevity!

The same holds true for headlines that say drinking soda can cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. What’s missing from those unfounded statements is any evidence from randomized clinical trials to demonstrate cause and effect.

Like longevity, the research on what does cause these illnesses reveals a strong genetic component. They are also influenced by numerous environmental factors and lifestyle behaviors. It’s just not a simple matter of sipping a sugar-sweetened beverage or not. In fact, our overall dietary patterns   matter much more than any single food we may eat.

I’m sure it will make many people happy to know they can still enjoy bacon and their favorite soft drink and live a long life. The lesson here is that it’s not the bacon that will guarantee you’ll reach your 100th birthday or the sweet drink that will keep you from getting there. Eating balanced meals and getting plenty of physical activity are habits that can add years to your life.

Keep that in mind the next time you see an inflammatory headline providing a quick fix for all of your dietary woes.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Most of the factors that affect life expectancy are under our own control

Factors That Affect Life Expectancy

MOST OF THE FACTORS THAT AFFECT LIFE EXPECTANCY ARE UNDER OUR OWN CONTROL

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

The oldest person in New Jersey died this week. She was 111 years old and lived the final years of her life less than 5 miles from my home. Seeing that headline in the morning newspaper immediately made me think about longevity and the factors that affect life expectancy. It seems the more we learn from and about these hearty centenarians, the more we must all be prepared to answer the question:

If you knew you were going to live to be 100, what would you do differently today?

It is a question worth pondering since health officials using data from the most recent Census predict that by 2050 more than 800,000 Americans will live their lives across two centuries. Another is that research sponsored by the National Institute on Aging found when studying animals that only about 30% of aging is based on genetics. That means as many as 70% of the factors that influence how long we live might be under our own control.

Factors That Affect Life Expectancy

Personal behavior and one’s physical environment are two broad categories that influence our life span. Behaviors such as not smoking, not abusing alcohol, eating a plant-based diet, and being physically active every day are shared by those who live the longest. Research has also shown that keeping socially connected, mentally engaged, and easy going are equally important traits.

Some of the environmental risks we can try to control are our exposure to the sun and air pollution, getting immunized, wearing seat belts, and avoiding toxic chemicals in our homes and workplace. Of course it may not be possible to move to a place where the air and water quality are better, but you can use a water filter.

What Are You Waiting For?

The biggest gains in life expectancy made in the last 50 years can be attributed to our ability to treat lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. But it has come at great cost and great suffering. We have also learned how to prevent those chronic diseases, but have not been successful motivating people to make the needed changes in their behavior and environments. Maybe the longevity question holds the key?

If you knew you were going to live to be 100, what would you start doing today?

For other posts on this topic:

  • How to Predict Longevity in Women
  • Feeding the Aging Mind
  • Longevity Secret Revealed
Willard Scott celebrates centenarians on The Today Show.

Longevity vs Healthy Aging

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

RESEARCH SHOWS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL AGING IS MIDLIFE FITNESS

After a certain age, birthdays become a cruel reminder that the time we have in front of us is shorter than the time we have behind us. Euphemisms for growing old start to pepper our vocabulary. Aging gracefully, successful aging and active aging have actually crossed my lips already.

As I celebrate another birthday, I am once again reflecting on the aging process.

Lessons On Aging From The Century Club

I’ve learned a lot about healthy aging from the centenarians Willard Scott pays tribute to in his segments on The Today Show. (By the way, Willard turns 79 this month.) I’ve never heard a single one say they credit their longevity to following the Mediterranean Diet. Not only that, not a single one has ever admitted living anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea.

None of the smiling seniors Scott has featured in his morning interviews has ever said they did Pilates every day, or yoga, or crunches. In fact, I can’t recall any fitness tips from any of them.

No one who has celebrated their 100th birthday with The Today Show has bothered to mention that they ate only organic food their entire life or lived it without sugar, salt and white flour. To the contrary, the one thing they all had in common was eating plenty of birthday cake!

Making Healthy Aging a Way of Life

When I looked for evidence of an anti-aging formula in the scientific literature there was only one thing that was 100 percent guaranteed: It’s big business.

Sales of things that promise to slow the aging process probably jumped with the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It informs us that we are all going to live longer thanks to modern medicine and new technology that can keep us alive in spite of our bad habits, but we’re not necessarily going to enjoy those added years. The irony is we’ll be having more birthdays, but may be too weak, sick, or in pain to go to our own parties.

That is unless we take up the fitness alternative.

One thing that does help people cross the finish line on their own two feet is being active. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last year found those who are the most fit in midlife – that’s means in their 30s, 40s, 50s – not only delay the onset of chronic diseases, they also shorten the amount of time suffering from them after the age of 65.

A key finding was that higher levels of midlife fitness don’t necessarily increase longevity, but they do reduce the number of years we might spend living with congestive heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, or colon and lung cancers. Another study published in January of this year titled, Years of Life Gained Due to Leisure-Time Physical Activity in the U.S., came to similar conclusions.

I know genetics and environment have a say in how long I’ll live and how well, but they don’t have the final word. So I’m going to pad my odds by having more fun. There are endless ways to stay fit, and as long as you’re having fun while doing them, it’s a great way to grow old.

Here are some other thoughts on longevity you might enjoy:

  • How to Predict Longevity in Women
  • Factors That Affect Life Expectancy
): Investing in childhood nutrition saves money in healthcare costs

Good Pediatric Care Offers Solution to Healthcare Crisis

Cost of healthcare can be reduced if children learn to eat right

While the nation continues to search for a way to resolve the healthcare crisis, I am convinced the answer lies in making sure every child in the country has good pediatric care. Other than selecting your own grandparents for their longevity genes, getting goo healthcare in the first two decades of life is the best way to improve your odds of beating your actuarial table.

Let me explain.

The growth and development of a healthy child require fresh air and water, a balanced diet, time to play, plenty of sleep and a safe environment. Adequate immunization and education seal the deal.

Accidents are the only leading cause of death in the U.S. (at number 5) that are not completely preventable, but virtually all of the others are.

Diet plays a major role in each of the top three causes of death while smoking controls the fourth:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases

So as I see it, the single best way to topple this country’s runaway healthcare costs is to make sure every child has an adequate diet throughout their childhood and adolescence. Establishing healthy eating habits at an early age is the best way to insure those habits will continue for the rest of one’s life and continue to protect one’s health. Trying to change poor eating habits in adulthood is far more difficult.

Pediatric healthcare providers have a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting good nutrition to their patients because the nutritional needs of children are remarkably the same around the world. They need foods of the right consistency, variety and quantity to thrive, yet no single food other than breast milk is universally found in the diets of children. Their undeveloped palates leave them open to experience and enjoy many new tastes and textures if regularly introduced, so there is no need to create special foods and menus just for kids.

To prevent overeating children should not receive external pressures to consume more than they want. Instead be allowed to respond to their internal cues of hunger and satiety. The same is true about eating for other external reasons, such as when food is used as a reward or to meet emotional needs. When these inappropriate relationships with food are not encouraged, children learn to eat for the right reasons and avoid the “food issues” that lead so many people to overeat today.

It almost sounds too simple to be true, but “you are what you eat.” The sooner in life we get that right, the better off we’ll all be.

Related articles:

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!