Vitality, Discovery’s wellness programme, underpins the company’s products by making people healthier and enhancing and protecting their lifestyles.

Vitality Nutrition

Discovery acknowledges the critical role that Registered Dietitians play in the implementing nutrition changes. Therefore, Vitality has conceptualised a programme using Registered Dietitians with two elements: :

The Vitality Dietitian Network

The Vitality Dietitian Network is a proposed network of private practicing dietitians in South Africa who are registered with the network and trained to do the assessments.

The Vitality Nutrition Assessment

The Vitality Nutrition Assessment is an easy-to-use electron

ic assessment and is based on the latest evidence-based nutrition information. The assessment has been developed with input from Anne Till and Associates (ATA) to ensure that each element is clinically relevant, ethically-based and practical. It will also be endorsed by an academic panel of experts.

Vitality members are assessed at a Vitality Dietitian Network recognised practice. The assessment takes approximately half an hour to complete. The assessment highlights the key healthy lifestyles indicators with particular emphasis on nutritional health. The electronic programme that has been developed will provide relevant recommendations.

Vitality members will earn Vitality points for doing this assessment every year. A member can earn between 5 000 - 11 000 points in a half an hour session.


To book your vitality assessment with Ashleigh, click here


Or contact her on 0828563374 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


We all like a bit of sweetness in our lives, but when it comes enjoying the sweeter tastes, too much could be dangerous to our health. With the carbohydrate phobia that has ensued over the past decade, natural sweeteners like sugar and honey have received a lot of bad publicity. Sugary foods have been blamed for all sorts of evils, from weight gain, to behavioural disorders and immune system dysfunction. This scare has led to a multi-billion dollar “sugar-free” and “diet” industry that promotes the consumption of alternative and artificial sweeteners. But are we actually doing ourselves any justice by consuming these products?

The most widely used artificial sweetener, and perhaps the most controversial, is aspartame, which is marketed in 6000 products in 90 countries as a low calorie sugar alternative. The anti-aspartame contingency is large, and according to U.S. doctor, Dr. Joseph Mercola (, aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. According to Mercola, some of these symptoms include headaches, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.

Aspartame Does Not Necessarily Aid Weight Loss

One of the main reasons aspartame first entered the market was as a weight-loss aid. A review study, which appeared in The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in 2010 entitled Gain Weight by “going diet?” challenges the notion that artificial sweeteners help you lose weight. Researchers at Yale University tracked the use of artificial sweeteners (like saccharin, cyclamate, aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose and neotame) and compared this against obesity rates in the United States. Results showed that as the percentage of people consuming artificial sweeteners and the amount of products containing them grew, so did obesity rates. Commenting on these observations, Australian doctor and author of The Liver Cleansing Diet, Dr Sandra Cabot believes that aspartame is the artificial sweetener mostly responsible. She explains how the liver breaks aspartame down into what she refers to as “toxic” compounds (namely phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol). This process, explains Cabot, requires a lot of energy from the liver, which makes less available for fat and sugar metabolism.

In 2010, researchers in Hungary fed a mixture of artificial sweeteners (including aspartame) at the amount of maximum Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) and compared this to controls who received just water. Results, published in Acta Physiologica Hungarica showed that rats consuming the artificial sweetener mix gained more weight than the group fed water. There have been other studies that have shown that aspartame may benefit weight loss, but no randomized, controlled, prospective clinical follow-up studies have been done since 1997.

Health Effects of Aspartame

The link between aspartame and cancer has been a contentious issue over the years, especially since studies linking aspartame to cancer were done using exceptionally high doses of the sweetener. Fear was sparked in 2006 after the work of an Italian research team, led by Morando Soffritti and published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that aspartame caused carcinogenicity in rats at a dose level close to the acceptable daily intake for humans. In 2011 another group of Italian researchers demonstrated in The American Journal of Industrial Medicine that aspartame could cause angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) in vitro.

There is also some concern that aspartame may affect brain function. According to Mercola, aspartame increases the amount of free aspartate and glutamate in the body, which then act as neurotransmitters in the brain. He explains that in excess, these components can kill neurons by over “exciting” them. He explains that although our blood brain barriers can protect us from these components, in excess some still pass through. The risk is particularly high in children, whose blood brain barriers are not yet fully developed.

A review study published by scientists in South Africa in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 examined the effects of phenylalanine (a main constituent of aspartame) on the brain. The review, which was supported by more than 50 scientific references, found that aspartame was able to disrupt brain chemistry by lowering key neurotransmitters levels, which could affect mood, behaviour and appetite. It was also reported that aspartame and its breakdown products can “excite” nerve cells, which indirectly causes a very high rate of neuron depolarization.

The Pro-Aspartame Contingency

Despite the mounting evidence on the ill effects of aspartame, review



Ashleigh Caradas is a dietcian in Illovo, Johannesburg . Ashleigh obtained her Medical Honours degree in 1999 from the University of Cape Town and has been in private practice since. She is also a yoga intructor and health journalist.

Why visit a Dietician?

Most people are aware of their unhealthy habits, but the reality is most do not know how to go about changing them. A dietician will make a thorough evaluation of your health, which includes asking the right questions, doing measurements and possible ordering blood tests to identify any blood or hormonal abnormalities or nutritional deficiencies. From there an individualized meal plan is negotiated with you, the patient, which means that you get a diet that suites your needs and preferences. A registered Johannesburg dietician is affiliated with the Health professional Council of South Africa and fees can be claimed back from most medical aids.

A busy lifestyle means that food and nutrition often takes a backseat as people seek out more convenient options. Stress also creates emotional deficits in ones life, which means that food becomes more of a filler and a comfort, rather than a means of keeping healthy. Most modern day illnesses are related to stress and poor dietary habits. The so-called diseases of lifestyle, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all mostly preventable through proper diet and lifestyle habits.

Contact Ashleigh on 0828563374

Practice address: Holistic Medical Centre, Jan Smuts Avenue, Dunkeld West

Click here to email Ashleigh or make an enquiry to see a Johannesburg dietician

Visit Ashleigh's website at



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