Professor and Chief of Clinical Epidemiology
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine
No soda is good for you, but if you must drink soda, do stick to sugar-sweetened.
And not too many of those. If you drink soda at all, make it an occasional treat. All soda is rather anti-nutritional.
Please, get a juicer, eat an organic orange, make organic lemonade with your own sugar, go to a Jamba Juice or another juice store that eschews artificial ingredients for pure fresh squeezed juice (fresh squeezed juice – bottled, canned, processed refrigerated or frozen juice is almost as worthless to your body as soda; don’t bother).
Do any or all of these things instead of drinking soda, and your addiction to flavored sugar-water will wane over time. As a bonus, switching from soda to fresh squeezed juice will strengthen your immune system.
Diet soda is far more than just a “0 calorie” taste-bud stimulator or, if caffeinated, a highly-addictive energy booster. To make diet soda taste “good”, non-food (non-caloric) chemicals are added to diet soda. These chemicals are worse for you than sugar, and taken regularly over time, do far more damage to your body.
You can bet that soda is addictive (when you start drinking it you tend to keep seeking it, don’t you? I certainly do.) Think a little about what you’re doing to your body.
(This applies to drinking alcohol, including wine, as well. Alcohol is nature’s anesthetic and was never intended to be consumed recreationally. It is not food. It is not healthy in any way, despite the “studies” purporting that it is good for your heart – shallow and politically-correct pseudo-science, not science.)
The artificial sweetener industry, citing their own, of course, tobacco science, swear on the graves of the mothers, like mine, who drank a six-pack of diet soda every day and was fattened by metabolic syndrome, partially blinded by methanol, and liver-damaged by excitotoxins, that the widely-used artificial sweetener aspartame is safe.
Aspartame manufacturers want us to believe that even other scientists are trying to trick us ignorant, naïve consumers into thinking that aspartame is a dangerous chemical, and that people who consume aspartame are the only clear-thinking, discriminating, smart consumers out there.
However, some consumers, doctors, researchers, and entire countries disagree that artificial sweeteners (or artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial ingredients of any kind) are safe in food. More and more independent scientific evidence is accumulating that is showing aspartame to be unsafe to eat.
I am a skeptic, in the original sense of the word: I eschew dogmatic belief. I find evidence from empiricism, including the experience of a critical, to a significant, to an overwhelming number of consumers more compelling than misguided public-health agenda, vested financial bias, or harrumphing authoritarianism.
In other words, I find it most logical to trust disinterested parties – non-industry-affiliated physicians and nutritionists, for instance, and the experiences of the general public, who at least start out without drums to bang – over interested parties such as the industry-affiliated FDA and the industrial firms that produce the chemicals, drugs, and artificial food products that we consume; again, assuring us that their products are safe by citing their own research.
The chemical industry tries to impress upon the public the purported safety of all of the chemicals that they invent and can sell, but not to trust the safety of one’s own body to chemicals unnatural to one’s body is simple, and overwhelming, logic.
Notoriously, many medical groups and spokespeople still pander to industrial interests. Research “conclusions” that this or that chemical is safe for human consumption are more often than not overturned eventually (and the so-called fringe scaremongers telling people the opposite, trying to save everyone’s lives, proven correct). Unfortunately, this seems to happen usually after it is too late to keep innocent people from being damaged.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for instance, CNN’s on-air “health expert”, is a nationally-broadcast talking head who, like most news media health experts, is a standard-issue doctor guided by the AMA, the membership of which is often beholden to corporate interests for funding and research grants.
Unfortunately, as personable as Gupta is, he is insidiously unreliable due to his extreme medical conservatism. Like most doctors when it comes to standards of practice and medical knowledge, he is an average of twenty to fifty years behind the times.
Gupta wrote in 2010 that aspartame is safe and disparages any idea that it is not. Gupta is representative of most on-air medical opinion.
The highly respectable Dr. Richard Besser, of ABC, also gets so many things wrong that one wonders whom he is protecting. For instance, when people drink soda, they usually drink the same amount every day – in order words, soda intake for people who drink soda usually does remain constant from day to day, because soda is addictive.
Just look around at your family and friends who drink diet soda. Do most of them drink it only occasionally, or do they consume several cans every day?
Practicing physicians must be careful not to express in public opinions based even on their own observations and empiricism that varies from that sanctioned by their medical organizations and specialty boards. They can lose their licenses if they do.
But it is embarrassing to watch doctors repeat whatever they have been told, no matter how biased or out of date, on national TV (rather than doing and reporting on their own research and experience). For me, for one, it’s become hard to believe anything that they say.
Medical opinion is too often out of date, misinformed, or biased (not to mention often condescending and arrogant).
For example, read the conservative British Medical Association’s editorial opinion on aspartame from 2004.
Here is something you may not know: You know more about your own body than your doctor does. If you haven’t figured that out yet, allow me to clue you in.
To be safest, do your own nutritional and health reading, trust your own body and experience, and be highly skeptical of your doctor’s opinions, diagnoses, and treatment plans if they don’t match up with what you know of your own body, history, and experience.
The health, and even the life, you save may be your own.
Professional nutritionists have been warning about the health dangers of artificial sweeteners since the 1950s. As a health-aware person, I won’t touch them. I avoid even stevia, which hasn’t been proven safe for daily consumption. When I want something sweet, I stick with evaporated cane or beet sugar, honey, molasses, and like – tried and true real foods that our ancestors have eaten for centuries (organic whenever I can get them), not made-in-the-lab chemicals, about which we know little because the corporations that manufacture them hide, downplay, or outright deny anything negative about their consumption.
But it’s not just doubt or suspicion that makes me eat this way. It’s common sense. Non-endogenous chemicals simply are not safe to consume, period – especially as everyday foods (excepting nutrients such as essential amino acids that the body can’t make itself and must take in from the outside, but that’s another animal, so to speak – endogenous chemicals that other living beings create and human beings must take advantage of nutritionally).
I’ve always been of the better-safe-than-sorry camp. How about you?
Whatever you do, don’t stock soda in a house that contains children. Soda, if consumed at all, should be a rare treat (something consumed with a rare take-out meal, for instance, when it’s fun), not an every day choice.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Dr. David Brownstein
60 Minutes’ Wallace Grills Monsanto Over Sweetener
Josh Gotthelf, St. Louis Business Journal, January 5, 1997
Videos of the 60 Minutes segment here (You Tube) and here (Google Video).
Aspartame and its Effects on Health
The sweetener has been demonised unfairly in sections of the press
and several websites (Editorial)
Michael E. J. Lean and Catherine R. Hankey, BMJ, October 2, 2004
(BMJ. 2004 October 2; 329(7469): 755–756. – doi: 10.1136/bmj.329.7469.755)
Independently funded studies have found potential for adverse effects (Letter)
John Briffa, BMJ, February 5, 2005
(BMJ. 2005 February 5; 330(7486): 309–310. – doi: 10.1136/bmj.330.7486.309-a)
Readers may prefer balanced and impartial editorials (Letter)
Ian J. Gordon, BMJ, February 5, 2005
(BMJ. 2005 February 5; 330(7486): 310. – doi: 10.1136/bmj.330.7486.310)
Study Links Aspartame To Cancer
CBS News, July 28, 2005
Aspartame Cancer Risks Revisited: Prenatal Exposure May Be Greatest Concern
M. Nathaniel Mead, Environmental Health Perspectives, September 2007
(Environ Health Perspect. 2007 September; 115(9): A460.)
Aspartame manufacturer funds junk science that declares aspartame to be safe
Mike Adams, NaturalNews, September 13, 2007
A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats
Swithers SE, Davidson TL. Behav Neurosci. 2008 Feb;122(1):161-73.
Soft Drink Consumption Not The Major Contributor To Childhood Obesity
Medical News Today, June 18, 2012
- Reliably, “food security” predicts overeating more than sugar consumption – one reason why low-carb diets (fasting in particular) and food shaming are terrible ideas and lead directly to eating disorders.
Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain
Cutting the connection between sweets and calories may confuse the body,
making it harder to regulate intake.
American Psychological Association, February 10, 2008
Kids Still Drinking Too Much Soda, Even When Not Available At School
ScienceDaily, September 2, 2008
Is aspartame safe?
Sanjay Gupta, CNN Health, March 18, 2010
America’s Deadliest Sweetener Betrays Millions, Then Hoodwinks You With Name Change
Joseph Mercola, Huffington Post, July 6, 2010
Aspartame administered in feed, beginning prenatally through life span, induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice. (abstract)
Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Manservigi M, Tibaldi E, Lauriola M, Falcioni L, Bua L., American Journal of Industrial Medicine, December 2010
(Am J Ind Med. 2010 Dec;53(12):1197-206.)
Diet Soda Linked To Weight Gain
Amanda Chan, Huffington Post, June 29, 2011
- “Diet soda might not help you stay trim after all, new research suggests. A study presented at a American Diabetes Association meeting this week shows that drinking diet soda is associated with a wider waist in humans. And a second study shows that aspartame – an artificial sweetener in diet soda – actually raises blood sugar in mice prone to diabetes. ‘Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,’ study researcher Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., a professor and chief of clinical epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio’s School of Medicine, said in a statement. ‘They may be free of calories but not of consequences’.”
Meet Big Soda — as Bad as Big Tobacco
Kelly Brownell, Time, October 24, 2011
Is That Flame Retardant In Your Soft Drink?
Rachel Cernansky, Tree Hugger, December 13, 2011
Miller School Researchers Link Diet Soda and Salt to Cardiovascular Risk
University of Miami, Health News, February 9, 2011
Diet Soda: Fewer Calories, Greater Stroke Risk?
Katie Moisse, ABC News, February 9, 2011
- So much dithering and denial in this article. Whom do they think they are protecting?
Study Finds Possible Link Between Diet Soda and Vascular Risks
News Releases, University of Miami, February 9, 2012
How to Ditch Your Diet Soda Habit
Amy, Nutrition-Accomplished (blog), February 16, 2012
Tapering off is the best advice for all bad-habits elimination. Cold turkey doesn’t work.
Is there a link between diet soda and heart disease?
Nancy Ferrari, Harvard Health, February 21, 2012
- Much more facing-the-truth than the article above (and much more explanatory).
Risks: Diet Soft Drinks Linked to Heart Disease
Nicholas Bakalar, The New York Times, February 27, 2012
Aspartame Withdrawal and Side Effects Explained
Here’s How to Protect Yourself
Aurora Geib, NaturalNews, March 2, 2012
Sudden Cardiac Death and Food Excitotoxin Additives
Russell L. Blaylock, Progressive Radio Network, April 2, 2012
Excitotoxicity at Wikipedia. Skip the MSG, too, if you want to live.
Dr. Blaylock’s website.
Gum goes from humdrum to teen fashion statement
Bruce Horovitz, USA Today, May 7, 2012
- Even cool gum makers are eschewing aspartame, finally, but as a fashion statement rather than a concern for peoples’ health. Besides, gum is a “new” fashion statement? What happened to the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s? There is nothing new under the sun. People haven’t changed in 150,000 years.
The Calorie-Counting Myth
Sylviana Hamdani, Jakarta Globe, May 14, 2012
- The most helpful and fascinating article in this list. But don’t drink wine. No matter what “good” things may be in wine, ethyl alcohol kills cells and causes multisystem disease no matter where it comes from.
Lawsuits slam ‘natural’ claims from [processed] orange juice to chips
Jessica Gresko, Associated Press, May 31, 2012
Artificial Sweeteners: The Challenges of Tricking the Taste Buds
Kenneth Chang, New York Times, June 11, 2012
Doubts By The Teaspoonful
“Choosing a Sugar Substitute”
Kenneth Chang, New York Times, June 11, 2012
Soft Drink Consumption Not The Major Contributor To Childhood Obesity
Medical News Today, June 18, 2012
- From a press release regarding the study:
“Beverage patterns among Canadian children and relationship to overweight and obesity”
by Danyliw, A.D., Vatanparast, H., Nikpartow, N., and Whiting, S.J.
Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 37(5). doi: 10.1139/ H2012-0074.
How Soda Companies’ Social Responsibility Campaigns Are Harming Your Health
Alexandra Sifferlin, Time, June 22, 2012
Cutting Out Soda Curbs Children’s Weight Gain, Studies Show
Alice Park, Time, September 22, 2012
- This article cites several studies that purport to assert that diet soda is better for kids than sugared. I would take that recommendation with a grain of salt. Eating less sugar does assist with weight loss; that is indisputable. On the other hand, these studies don’t follow their subjects over time to determine whether there is subsequent accumulative physical damage due to the chemicals in diet soda, which, I might add, has also been shown to be true. Remember that many of these studies are funded by or assisted by soda manufacturers. The very best solution is to allow children little no soda at all in their diets and to allow only “natural” sodas or sugared sodas when soda is allowed. A complete ban is a bad idea in a culture where the banned items are commonly available; “prohibition” doesn’t work on a humanistic level and tends rather to romanticise the banned items, to cause communication breakdown, and to encourage the normalization of cheating and lying. Instead, talk to kids about the truth, make your preferences clear and why, listen without fear or judgment to kids’ questions, and honor their humanity.
Sugary Drinks Linked To Increased Prostate Cancer Risk
Agence France Presse via Business Insider, November 26, 2012
- I’m skeptical of such shallow conclusion-leaping. Still, this supports the thesis that soda of any stripe is not the healthiest choice. Eat an orange.
PepsiCo Will Halt Use of Additive in Gatorade
Stephanie Strom, The New York Times, January 25, 2013
- The additive is also used as a fire retardant, as cited above.
The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
Michael Moss, The New York Times, February 20, 2013
Could there be evils lurking in aspartame consumption?
Christine Lydon, M.D., posted at dorway.com, undated. A very well-written essay.
Aspartame Symptoms Submitted to the FDA
“The following are symptoms attributed to aspartame in complaints submitted to the FDA by the Department of Health and Human Services April 20, 1995.”
Janet Starr Hull, SweetPoison (blog), undated.
Is Diet Soda Safe? We Examine the Evidence
Dave J. Mitchell, EZineArticles, Undated.
The Hundred-Year Lie
How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health
Randall Fitzgerald. Dutton, 2006.
The Unhealthy Truth
How Our Food Is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It
Robyn O’Brien. Crown Archetype, 2009; Three Rivers, 2010.
America’s Processed Foods, America’s Obesity Problem
February 5, 2011
Kids Need The Choice Of Chocolate Milk
June 18, 2011
"Coke" Soda Can by Alessandro Paiva
© 2013 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved. Please do not repost or republish in any form without the express permission of the author.
Last Updated: July 30, 2013
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