The drink that's got you down - Tucson News Now

The drink that's got you down

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

We reach for a cool, fizzy soda for a quick pick-me-up, but some doctors are warning those drinks may be bringing you down.

A new study is underway that could link depression to an ingredient in many diet drinks.

Playing and staying active is one way Emily Wilkinson keeps her two young boys healthy. She also keeps tabs on what they eat and drink.

"Aspartame is absolutely horrible," Wilkinson said. "As long as I can prevent it, they will not have it."

She is concerned about what aspartame, an artificial sweetener, could do to their young bodies.

"They actually find that it creates nerve damage in the brain which is directly related to depression as well as ADHD, ADD," Wilkinson said.

Now, researchers are looking into whether the thing many of us consume every day in diet sodas, drink mixes, and chewing gum is bringing us down.

"That's one of the focuses on some of the newer studies that are being done right now," Dr. David Schultz a family physician said.

Schultz is keeping a close eye on those independent studies, looking into whether aspartame reduces serotonin, the neurotransmitter in the brain that controls mood. Reducing serotonin reduces happiness.

"In clinical practice, there have been many observations made that aspartame may cause problems with mood swings, emotional ability, and also can cause some problems with anxiety," Schultz said.

Schultz recommends parents remove aspartame from their kids' diets.

"And almost immediately they noticed marked improvement in their child's behavior," Schultz said.

Schultz also says aspartame could have the same effect on adults. Adults are more likely to consume higher amounts of aspartame than children. Especially those who grab a diet soda or use a drink mix to flavor their water, all in an effort to cut down on calories.

"I would always recommend to somebody who wants to steer clear of aspartame not to justify that with a regular sugar beverage because they're going to get excess calories from that," Corey Filbert, a nutritionist said.

Filbert says the good news is new, low-calorie artificial sweeteners already are on the market. One is taken from a fruit, the other is Stevia.

"So where you see a lot of aspartame in beverages and diet drinks right now, I think in the future we'll see more Stevia as an option," Filbert said.

Aspartame has been approved by the FDA for more than thirty years. A claim cannot be made that aspartame causes depression because those studies are just now taking place.

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