Lifestyle

INVESTMENT


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“A well lived life is crafted each day in how we think, how we act and who we invest our time with.”  Nathan Marsala

How we invest our time, and how we think, couldn’t be more important than during this unique period in 2020. Time is a precious resource and many of us will view the COVID-19 situation as an impediment to our lives. For many, COVID-19 has become an impediment. With what I am about to say I do not want to minimize, or generalize this situation for all people. But, I do want to focus on how we can choose to see this time as an opportunity, as something that can be a positive and not just an impediment. Seeing this pandemic as an impediment for many of us is a choice. Has life as “usual” changed? Yes. Does that mean the change is bad or road block? No.

I am speaking from the position as someone who was laid off and lost their job. As someone who has family living with them that is on immunosuppressants and has been considered higher risk. I also understand the challenges of trying to get my first grader to complete their schoolwork from home. We are all touched in some way, shape or form by the current circumstances.

So how does one see this as an opportunity? How have I chosen to see this situation where time was awkwardly and unexpeditly handed back to me?

To start, here are a few quick questions to ask yourself, and please be brutally honest with yourself as you answer them out loud.

1 – How many hours a day do you spend watching a streaming service with content that is “non-educational” material, think “Tiger King” and other types of shows. 

2 – How much time do you spend each day scrolling and posting on social media? 

3 – What was the last investment you made in yourself? Was it a book you read that expanded your mind, a course you took to learn a new skill, meditation, or exercise?

4 – Do you still manage proper self-care: sleep, movement, morning and evening routines?

Let’s take a moment and look at the added time many of us have been afforded to invest in ourselves, and to grow. Let’s use just one example of where many of us had time handed back to us. Our commute. If you had a commute and are now working from home, you have now saved that commute time. Let’s assume that commute was 30 minutes to and fro. So, you were given one additional hour per day in “our example,” to spend however you choose.

So, how can you spend that time?  How do you spend that time right now? A few things we could do would be to invest that time back in learning a new skill, maybe it’s coding, or learning to cook. A new language, a new certification in our chosen field. Or maybe it’s adding a new healthy habit to our lives that we can carry with us as we return to “normal life” again,. Maybe it’s connecting with people that we were too busy to connect with before. 

The thoughts we hold will determine in large part how we spend this added time that has been given back to us. By choosing to see this time as an opportunity and adopting a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset (for more on this, invest a few bucks and a few hours and read “Mindset” by Carol S. Dwek PhD.) we will be more apt to come out of this situation better than when we went into it. Investing in yourself is like investing in the markets. Small growth compounds over time and leads to better opportunities. The cost for most of this investment, is time. There are a dozens and dozens of free resources right now that people can access if they will invest their time to become better.

We have been gifted time, a precious resource that is finite. Use it wisely, and take this opportunity to become a better version of yourself. Instill a habit of thinking better, and using your time become a the new you.

By Nathan Marsala

Uncategorized

Our Stories


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I have many thoughts on the stories we tell ourselves and this short post is not all inclusive of these thoughts but what is on my mind this morning.

Mind over matter is a real thing, the placebo and nocebo effect are real and have been studied a lot over the years. So what does the placebo effect have to do with our everyday lives? We convince ourselves everyday of things that may or may not be true, and we change reality based on the stories we tell ourselves about things that happened in the past that we carry with us, or we tell a story about the rude person in line at the coffee shop this morning that cut in front of us. The story becomes our reality when in fact it may not be reality at all. 

Nassim Taleb shares a quip about how news pundits will go on the air shocked that a stock or tanked or the market soared to new levels and the pundits claim they don’t understand why the market did the what it did. Often their expert guests will use words like “this makes no sense to us Jim, none of our models predicted this type of market reaction” Taleb points out that reality is correct, the market being discussed is reality and it does make sense. But, the story, the reality, the experts were telling themselves was incorrect. In a scenario like this we see the experts puzzled and trying to get their story to fit into the actual reality that does not agree with their story. Their story must change if they want to understand why the market did what it did. While this may be a little less direct example for many of us on how our stories can impact us. Let’s look a little closer to home.

Back to the person who cut in line at the coffee shop that we now are dwelling on, raising our blood pressure and getting negative mindset over. Our story, they are rude and think they are better than us because they have a Louis Vuitton bag. Ugh. Was this person really entitled? Or did they just get a speeding ticket on the way to get coffee for the boss who just yelled at them for being late and their morning is off to a bad start, the LV bag is a nock off and while they were reading the nasty text from their boss while walking up to the cue they simply didn’t see you at the back of the line. It could be an honest mistake they were never aware of making. One story provides fodder to lament, be stressed and frustrated and ruin a good part of the day and will impact how we treat and react to others. The other story creates empathy and understanding and may help you be grateful your day is off to a better start. So what is the story? 

It would be wise for us to become aware of the stories we tell ourselves or in some cases that we have been telling ourselves for years and even decades. If they are not accurate stories, and chances are the story is only one perspective of many. If the story does not help us but hurts us then it is time to re-evaluate the story and change it. Stories are strong and powerful and used convey messages and lessons. When we consider the power of the placebo and nocebo effect and how that the placbo and nocebo effect is just a story someone told us that created a physical manifestation. We should consider the placebos we give ourselves or the nocebos and how they can change things for us. How we feel, how we act in relationships, the stress we feel physically and mentally. Like the market example above our stories can have a compounding impact over time in the quality of our life and where we end up. 

Step back and look at the stories you tell yourself. Can you change them? Are they helping you or hurting you? I was 300 pounds and out of shape and depressed a decade ago, fighting a loosing battle, loosing a little only be heavier and more depressed three months later. There was a story I told myself that enabled me to get to that point in my life and to live that cycle over and over again. A story full of shame, guilt, and being insufficient, never being enough. When I changed my story and learned to see things differently my life changed too. I lost the added 110 pounds, I became a much happier and more fulfilled person. Stress and anxiety went away, my relationships improved with the people around me, my confidence grew more and more. They story I have today is much different. I had to let the old story that wasn’t helping me go. The story had to change as part of my journey.

Behavior Change, Lifestyle, Transformation

Habits Equals Success


Success in meeting our goals in life whether that be our weight, our lean muscle mass, our retirement or writing a blog comes from a simple formula. Simple doesn’t always mean easy, execution and follow through can be tough. We are all human and we all fail from time to time, even the best of the best are not perfect so please keep that in mind while we look at this  simple formula that helps people reach their goals. 

Here it is: Establish good habits! That’s it. Allow me to expound on how good habits allow us to reach our goals and find success. Let’s break this down. I didn’t say bad habits or wrong habits or just habits. I said “good” habits. Often the thing that takes us away from where we want to be with our health or any other goal is an incongruent habit. This does not mean the habit is bad in moral or ethical way, although it could be. It simple means it is not aligned with what we want and in this context I would define a bad habit as any habit that doesn’t serve you and where you want to be. Staying up late binge watching the latest Netflix series to me is a bad habit because I value the quality and quantity of my sleep and how that quality sleep impacts my health. The nightly Netflix binge also takes me away from reading and learning, which is something else that I value and enjoy. This does not mean that I don’t watch any TV or that I haven’t binged a series until midnight –– see above about not being perfect –– however is not my habit, or my default.

Habits are just that, our default behavior that takes place when there is a trigger or a cue. It can be walking into a dark room and you turn on the light switch 99% of the time. That is habit. dark room, switch, you and voila the lights are turned on. It can be the routine you use before bed, the route to take home from work or the store. These all become default habits. Some are great, some not so great and others can be indifferent. To reach our goals with our health we need to set up good habits that serve our health goals. 

Here are some areas that we can improve our habits that will pay off over time. After all, a habit is doing something consistently over time, which is also the definition I use for compliance. 

Consider your habits around the following things and ask if they are truly serving you, if not ask how can you improve them in small ways. 

Evening routine 

Bed time 

Morning routine 

How you eat your meals 

When you eat your meals 

Do you have a snack – if so why and what 

Workouts 

Moving frequently during the day

Going for a walk after dinner 

Going for a walk in the morning 

Meal prepping

Meditation and mindfulness 

Spending time with friends and family

The list can go on an on. The key point is to be intentional about the things you do and to build a good habits around them. The good habits will become the default and it will require less thinking and will power. The good habit becomes automatic like turning on the light switch and the benefits compound over time. Just remember bad habits compound over time as well. So take some time and evaluate some habits you may want to add, to change or to remove from your life and apply intention + consistency + time and you will get where you want to go. 

Habits take time to develop and it’s okay to start small, it’s okay to tinker with them until they work for you. And always enjoy the journey along the way and give yourself the permission and self love to know that you are not perfect and that progress is better than regression and stagnation. 

Best. 

Nathan Marsala | PHC 

Bison Health Coaching

Behavior Change, Lifestyle, Transformation

Getting Started


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A question I seem to get a lot is, Where do I start? With all of the information that is available and all of the “changes” that may or may not need to be made it can become overwhelming. Starting with an all or nothing approach can be for you if you are that person. Most of us are not, and we need to pick one item and ease into the changes.

I am an advocate of the minimum effective dose (MED) to make a positive change. The MED for week one is only becoming aware of the behaviors that you currently have. I am not saying you obsess over these items, but merely become informed. An example would be with food and meal frequency. I recommend that you write down everything you eat and drink and the time for one week, you do not need to count macronutrients or calories, this is just to become aware of the choices and decisions we make. If carrying a notebook is too much, use the camera on your smartphone and before anything enters your mouth snap a picture. The phone will time stamp and show quantity, and it is simple. This is a MED to become aware of one habit. After we have been able to bring awareness to the meal timing, and content we can then begin to work on making the positive changes.
Typically the next step would be to purge the pantry of any processed food, vegetable oils, sugars, and other simple carbohydrates and to go grocery shopping for real, whole foods. I emphasize green leafy vegetables, some fruit in season that is fresh for a sweet tooth, healthy meats and fats. We work on merely eating these foods over processed foods. Timing, quantity, and frequency will come next. Again each approach is tailored to the individual and what they can take on. For some, it may be easier to go all in and attack all aspects in one step. Understanding how much to change to take on at one time is something you need to play with to determine what the MED is for you. I don’t want clients to be starving or hungry at first. I want them to start focussing on better food choices. As quality foods become a natural part of their lifestyle, then we can start working on the MED for other aspects of health. These would be meal timing, quantity, understanding the difference between satiated and stuffed. After food, we focus on sleep, movement, exercise and stress resiliency. Regaining our health does not happen overnight, in a week or a month. It is a process that takes time. The time required is different for each person, and it has a lot to do with how long a person has been living in a way that was opposed to health. My journey back to health took over a year to get to a healthy weight and as my knowledge expanded so did the time it took. My weight loss and return to health were non-linear, and I am still working on making consistent changes as my goals and understanding progress. The principle of MED has not changed and is still there.

So where do we start? With becoming aware of what needs to change and then taking the minimum effective dose to start making that change.

By: Nathan Marsala

Behavior Change, Wellness

Finding Movement in the Day


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Part of a healthy lifestyle is moving our bodies and the benefits are enormous. While we think of movement primarily as exercise – going to the gym, getting out for a run, a bike ride, or a yoga class – movement is more than structured activities. Both exercise and movement are essential parts of health and here is why I advocate for doing both. Exercise usually has more structure to it, like a class (spin, yoga, boot camp, CrossFit) or some specific element of cardio for a particular distance or time (going for a run, elliptical, bike ride) or it can look like a weight lifting session. All of these are good things, and we should seek to make them to our routine. Where movement differs from exercise is in the lack of structure. Movement is often a bit more sporadic and sprinkled in throughout the day–movement is the smaller things that keep us from being too sedentary during the day. This is playing with kids, standing, walking, opening doors, it takes many forms. Often we go to the gym, and we get an hour or so of exercise in and we think we have done our part, that we have “moved.” Then we proceed to sit in our cars on our way to work, sit at our desks and then sit in our cars on the way home from work. We sit at dinner and to read or watch TV. “Sitting is the new smoking” has been a popular phrase recently, and with stand up desks being a new rage we are trending in a better direction. Full disclosure, I use both. But, standing stationary all day is not much different than sitting all day. There are times to sit and times to stand, times to exercise and times to move.
The need for movement is important and while no job is perfect, jobs that involve skilled labor and reduce the amount of time one sits during the day does have an advantage since movement is built into part of their day. This does not imply that someone should change jobs, but it is an option and in some circumstances, a career or job change can provide be a step in a healthier direction. I often think back to the years I spent working as a finish carpenter, it was constant movement, with and without a load, up and down and all around. It felt pretty darn good too. Today my environment has changed, as it has for many of us, and we need to adapt and learn to move within these changes. I am at a desk a lot, more than I have ever been, which has made getting movement more difficult. For a while, I struggled to “find” movement in my day.

These are some tips that I use, and that I have seen others use, to find places to add more movement into my day.
I do have a sit-stand desk, and I do not sit or stand all day, I rotate between the two. When I am standing I am often moving around a bit, shifting weight, this an excellent place for a balance or wobble board as well, personally I have a Plane by Fluid Stance.
When I am standing and need a file, I squat down to open the drawer instead of bending over. I make sure I give my brain a break every 50 minutes and take that moment to walk around, sometimes I go to the stairwell and go up and down a flight of stairs or two.
Taking the stairs is another great way to find more movement. Don’t use the elevator if you don’t have to, or alternate between the stairs and the elevator. I am on the 9th floor of my building, some days I use only the stairs, other days I may take the elevator to the third or the fourth floor and then use the stairs depending on the time I have. I park at the far end corner of the lot as well, adding distance means I have to walk. I park far from almost anywhere I go into to add an element of walking (my wife kids me, saying that I park equal distance from our house to the store). I try to use the manual doors as well. I go for a quick walk around the block during lunch. If I have a long call to be on and the weather is permitting I take the call on my cell phone outside while walking around. I add push-ups to my routine whenever I change my clothes (except at the gym) twice a day, it gives me a chance to move a little more. I add body weight squats here and there. I start my mornings walking our dog around the block. Playing with your kids can be another great way to move. So can dancing around the house while listening to music. Cooking a meal from scratch is also a way to add some more movement and have a better meal, this one is a win-win.

Bike Ride
Biking to work.

Be creative with your environment and find what works for you. Adding more movement to your day requires some self-experimentation. If something doesn’t work well for you feel free to modify it or abandon it and do something different. I like making some things a little harder to get to, just a bit out of the way, even in my home–it forces movement, but there is a balance with this approach. When forming a new habit or creating a routine, one key element is how convenient it is. The more convenient, the easier it is to add the new routine, the more inconvenient, the less likely it will get done. The ease of the task helps break a habit or routine that you want to eliminate.

Habit stacking can be a trick to help add some small movements; it is a tool I use personally and with clients. Recall the pushups I do when I change clothes, that is habit stacking, My cue to do push-ups, (25 if you are wondering), is changing my clothes. The bedroom and act changing my clothes is a daily habit I already have. It can also be something like walking into your office and then doing a few bodyweight goblet squats before sitting at the desk. I have a cup I keep at my desk for water, it is not a big 32oz mega cup I see many others use. It is 14oz; this is intentional. It means I have to refill it many times during the day. Which forces me to walk, adding a bit more movement in my day I would not otherwise get.

Have fun with finding movement in your day, structured exercise is excellent for the mind and body, but movement during the day is also an essential component to a healthy life, be creative in finding ways to move more during the day and have fun in the process of discovering how many new ways you can move.

Recap of Ideas and Ways to Add Movement
– Take the stairs
– Park further away
– Take a mental break from work and to walk
– Add some push-ups or squats
– Use manual doors
– Cook meals from scratch
– Play with kids
– Chores – make them a movement game
– Gardening and yardwork
– Shovel the snow with a shovel
– Go for a walk
– Play with your pets, if you have one
– Alternate sitting and standing
– Use balance and wobble boards
– Climb a tree
– Play on the playground – I love this one, playing on the playground with my daughter is always fun
– Ride a bike
– Have fun and be creative, find small places to habit stack.

 

By Nathan Marsala | Primal Health Coach

Food

Diet Soda & Artificial Sweeteners


Use with Caution, or Not At All

My Short History of Diet Soda Consumption

I have had several conversations recently on the topic of diet soda and artificial sweeteners and their impact on our health. This post is in response to those conversations. I should start by prefacing that I used to be a soda drinker, I admit it. In high school, it was part of my lunch and my breakfast. When I would get to school my first stop was the bookstore for a Bavarian cream filled, chocolate frosted donut and a 20oz Dr. Pepper. Looking back, it’s shocking what I ate times. Lunch was similar; fast food and a fountain—drink, often my poison of choice was another DP or Mountain Dew. I was never into the diet soda. It tasted off, funny, and gross to me. As I got older and into my twenties, college, work, life etc… I made the switch to diet coke with the belief that it was better for me, healthier, and would help slow or stop my weight gain. I was wrong on all accounts. I continued to balloon and my health continued to decrease little by little. At the peak, my Diet Coke consumption was a 44oz Diet Coke to start the day, which got me through my commute and to lunch; lunch included a refill, and that would generally get me to home; and at home, two liters were waiting in the fridge for a glass or two during the evening. On game day, Sunday, watching football I would be stocked up, and I would easily consume at least one two-liter while watching football. Sometimes more. I don’t recall drinking water much, it had no flavor or taste, but diet coke was “amazing.” Fast forward to 2018, I have rarely touched any soda in eight years. I don’t like it anymore, and I learned a lot along the way about how it affects the body.

Diet Soda’s Impact on Health

For 10 years, researchers followed diet-soda drinkers and non-diet-soda drinkers, their study showed that diet soda drinkers waist sizes grew 70% percent more than non-diet-soda drinkers, and that those who consumed at least two or more diet sodas per day had a 500% greater increase in waist size1. In 2015, they published their study of a dose-response relationship between consumption of diet soda and waist circumference1.  This is not to say that drinking regular soda full of high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar is healthy or does not lead to an increase in weight gain, it does, these impacts were observed as well; however, the point is that diet soda containing artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, had an increase in waist size and weight gain that surpassed those who consume sugary soda drinks. Why does waistline size matter?  Your waistline has a strong correlation to fat accumulation—particularly visceral fat, which is stored around the waistline. Visceral fat has been well documented to be a contributing factor to metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, heart disease, and other negative health factors2,3.

Another way we are impacted by artificial sweeteners occurs in the brain by tampering with our food cravings and creates a negative cycle. A cycle that can be difficult for us to get out of. Artificial sweeteners are actually sweeter than real sugar. They have also been found to have addictive properties. They first alter our taste, so we prefer the artificial sweetener over real food, like fruits and vegetables, they even alter our perception and taste of real sugars. The sweeter foods can be more addictive than cocaine12,13 and artificial sweeteners are the sweetest.  Let’s review real quick, artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas and other processed foods have been found to increase our waist sizes—which leaves us prone to a host of health problems, and they can be addictive which means we will want more of them.

Studies have found that artificial sweeteners, while containing no calories for energy, still elicit a metabolic response 5,6,7. This can lead to mixed signals in the body which, in turn, leads to increased cravings and more hunger. Follow this path to its logical conclusion and we see an overconsumption of processed, high carbohydrate foods to satisfy the cravings these artificial sweeteners have induced.

Our bodies are complex, calories in versus calories out is a bit too simplistic. It overlooks look hormonal responses that food and environment have on our bodies. Diet sodas and processed foods that use artificial sweeteners are no exception. While as artificial sweeteners are often touted to be inert and have no effect on the body, the evidence is mounting that artificial sweeteners do have an effect, even if we do not fully understand all of the mechanisms just yet. While animal studies have shown insulin and glycemic responses to the consumption of artificial sweeteners, few human trials have replicated this finding and it not clear why just yet. One study did find a connection between insulin and blood glucose levels in a human trial using oral glucose tests that contained an artificial sweetener.4. This indicates to me that it’s a mixed bag of results at this time and more research is needed. We do know, that artificial sweeteners are addictive and have effects on our brain health as well 5,8. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to headaches, behavioral and cognitive problems, mood swings, anxiety and can impact our memory5,8,9. They signal dopamine response in the brain and they lead to increased cravings. Studies have also demonstrated that artificial sweeteners have a negative impact on our micro biome5,7. It alters the environment that also leads to an increase in appetite and cravings for sugary, high carbohydrate foods, as well as, influences hormones in the gut that aid in regulating insulin5,7.

Artificial sweeteners alter our cravings and the reward centers in the brain and gut that results in cravings for more sugary foods and simple carbohydrates5,7. With over-consumption, these sugary foods do have an impact on our blood sugar and insulin sensitivity over time which leads to chronic illness. We also are now seeing studies show that chronic consumption of artificial sweeteners can also impact our glucose sensitivity over time.6,10

Conclusion

The health risks far outweigh the rewards when consuming artificial sweeteners in our food and drinks, and diet sodas should be eliminated from a healthy lifestyle. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to obesity and an increased risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, obesity, dementia, anxiety, headache, and cancer2.

The image to the right is what we are sold by advertisers and food manufacturers.  “lookYoung beautiful girl Drinking a Bottle of Green Juice with Straw blue sky, holding a glass of smoothie, detox, healthy food, fruit cocktail outdoor portrait,close up,tasty,smiling enjoy her weekends good, skinny and enjoy the sweetness of a calorie-free food.” The image is far from the truth. Some may stay thin, more will add to their waistline, and most of us, visible or not, will have adverse health effects in our microbiome, which is a vital and complex system in our body. 

While many people opt for low calorie and zero calorie foods, snacks, and beverages under the impression they are improving their health by reducing their calorie intake and fat intake, they are making matters worse by consuming food like products and drinks. There is a common belief that if it is in our food system it must be safe for consumption. To fully explore that statement is another lengthy article on its own, and one we hope to take on in future. The main take away is this: Food-like products are just that, food-like, they are not real food. Most artificial sweeteners on the market are fully synthetic, and even the much-touted Splenda, a “healthier alternative” to aspartame products, has many similar negative health effects when consumed. The best approach to health and wellness is one that revolves around real food, whole food, in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle — not one full of quick shortcuts that in the long run short change us. 

By Nathan Marsala

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References:

1 – Diet Soda Intake Is Associated with Long‐Term Increases in Waist Circumference in a Biethnic Cohort of Older Adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging Sharon P.G. Fowler MPH  Ken Williams MS  Helen P. Hazuda PhD https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498394/ 

2 – Abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments: association with metabolic risk factors in the Framingham Heart Study. Fox CS1, Massaro JMHoffmann UPou KMMaurovich-Horvat PLiu CYVasan RSMurabito JMMeigs JBCupples LAD’Agostino RB SrO’Donnell CJ. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17576866

3 – Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Hamdy O1, Porramatikul SAl-Ozairi E. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18220642

5 – https://usrtk.org/sweeteners/aspartame_health_risks/

6 – https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)30876-X

4– Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load M. Yanina Pepino PHD, Courtney D. Tiemann, MPH, MS, RD, Bruce W. Patterson, PHD, Burton M. Wice PHD and Samuel Klein MD Diabetes Care 2013 Apr; DC_122221. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc12-2221 Curr Biol. 2017 Aug 21;27(16):2476-2485.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.018. Epub 2017 Aug 10.

7- Metabolic Effects of Non Nutritive Sweeteners  M. Yanina Pepino, PhD https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4661066/

8- Neurophysiological symptoms and aspartame: What is the connection? Choudhary AK1, Lee YY1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28198207

9- Aspartame and the hippocampus: Revealing a bi-directional, dose/time-dependent behavioural and morphological shift in mice. Onaolapo AY1, Onaolapo OJ2, Nwoha PU3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28049023

10- Aspartame intake is associated with greater glucose intolerance in individuals with obesity. Kuk JL1,1, Brown RE1,1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27216413

11- https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030