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Diet sodas can harm the body on many levels. Literally from head to toe. The caffeine can have adverse effects on the brain and nervous system; the acid in them can lead to tooth decay and loss of bone density; and the artificial sweeteners may possibly, well, pre-embalm your organs. Throw in recent research linking caramel coloring used in colas to cancer, and you’ll start to rethink your daily consumption of these drinks. But before you decide anything, let’s take a closer look at just what’s in diet soda, and the research that’s been done surrounding it.

aspartame molecule

Aspartame, which is the basis for other artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Equal, is used in most diet sodas. The reason being that it provides the sweet flavor you expect from drinks like Coca Cola Classic and Pepsi, without giving you all the calories from the sugar in them. Great, right?

Well, it should be noted that aspartame was denied eight times by the FDA before it was finally approved in 1974, for dry foods only. And even then it wasn’t smooth sailing. New research found adverse effects caused by the sweetener. Neuroscientists warned that it should not be permitted for consumption. But it somehow still made it’s way into products. Finally, in 1996, aspartame was approved for use in food and beverage products, without restriction, despite recognizing that ninety-two different symptoms can arise from ingesting it, including memory loss, nerve cell damage, migraines, reproductive disorders, mental confusion, brain lesions, blindness, joint pain, Alzheimer’s, bloating, nervous system disorders, hair loss, food cravings and weight gain. So many people have been made sick by aspartame that there is even an aspartame victims support group, titled aptly Aspartame Victims Support Group.

One of the components of aspartame is methyl alcohol, which, when digested, is converted into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is not only used to preserve flesh, as in embalming fluid, it is also a deadly neurotoxin. Second guessing that Diet soda habit yet?the secret dangers of artificial sweeteners

Aspartame also contains the amino acid phenylalanine, which occurs naturally in the brain. But when it exists in high levels, phenylalanine can increase the chance of seizures and lead to depression and schizophrenia.

But let’s not just bash aspartame; let’s look at that other artificial sweetening giant, Splenda. Splenda is created by chlorinating sugar, which changes its molecular structure and forms sucralose. The company claims that Splenda is zero calorie and great for diabetics. Even the FDA calls it 98% pure. But what’s in the remaining 2%? Oh, just some heavy metals, methanol and arsenic. Splendid! As a result, sucralose has be found to cause diahrrea, organ, genetic, immune system, and reproductive damage,  swelling of the liver and kidneys, and a decrease in fetal body weight.

Do I really need to say any more? If you want something sweet, do it with natural sugar. And just be responsible with your caloric intake.  

the secret dangers of diet soda

According to the nonprofit group, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the caramel coloring used in some sodas has been linked to cancer. The chemical reaction that produces it also produces two known carcinogens, 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). Both have been shown to cause cancer in mice and rats.

Coca Cola defends itself, saying that 4-MEI "forms normally in the ‘browning reaction’ while cooking, even in one’s own kitchen." CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson agreed that 2-MEI and 4-MEI "are not potent carcinogens,” but continued to say that, “it is totally inappropriate to accept any risk from artificial coloring that has no nutritional or preservative value."

The FDA has yet to review the claim. But it is expected, if anything were to happen, they would ask manufacturers to use natural coloring in their soft drinks, which can be obtained from carrots or beets. The other alternative is to just let Coke and Diet Coke be colorless, like that other Coca Cola product, Sprite. But the question is: would you drink Coke that didn’t look like Coke?

tooth decay caused by diet soda

The pH of most sodas and diet sodas ranges between 2.47-4.61. A quick science lesson if you forget what this means. On the pH scale 7 is neutral, while acidity is measured between 0-6.99 and basicity is measured between 7.01-14. Thus, all sodas are pretty highly acidic.

One argument that most people make for diet sodas is that because they lack sugar, the threat of tooth decay is nonexistent. But while sugar plays a large part in cavity formation, it is not the only thing that does. Diet Coke has a pH of 3.39, Diet Dr. Pepper has a pH of 3.41, and Diet Pepsi has a pH of 3.36. How does does this relate to tooth decay though? Enamel.

Enamel is the hard substance that covers the crown of a tooth, protecting it from impact and chemical deterioration. However, the threshold pH for enamel dissolution is 5.5, which means that when you consume items that are lower in pH than 5.5, say a diet soda, you run the risk of removing enamel from you teeth. Now, one Diet Coke a week, or a month, isn’t going to do anything significant. But if you’re drinking 1-2 diet sodas a day, if not more, you might need to be more careful. If you eat something sugary elsewhere, and consistently, weakened enamel will put you at risk for major tooth decay. Remember: enamel is like the outer wall of a fortress protecting the soldiers within. Lose that and you’re in big trouble.

osteoperosis caused by aspartame

Acid in diet sodas effects more than just the teeth. It effects the bones in your body, as well. While it may be argued that those who experience osteoporosis as a result of ingesting large of amounts of soda do so because they replace healthy beverages like milk and fortified orange juice with soda. But there is other evidence that suggests it has to do with the phosphoric acid found in these drinks. When there is an overabundance of phosphorus in bones, and not enough calcium, it throws off the natural balance and leads to a loss of bone density. Thus, having a diet soda with every meal not only lead to malnutrition, it also fills your body with excessive minerals it does not need.

Ah, caffeine, the chemical that drives America. Without it, how would so many millions of working individuals get anything done? Oh, I know…GET SOME REST!!

Caffeine has become the American wonder drug, more so than Prozac and Viagra. But how great is it really? Well, to continue with the previous topic, caffeinated beverages have been linked to bone density loss because caffeine blocks the absorption of calcium. In a study performed at Tufts University, both caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks were associated with lower bone density, but the caffeinated appeared to do more damage.

Caffeine has also been linked with digestive problems, acid reflux, irritation of the stomach and bladder, peptic ulcers, headaches, anxiety, depression and fatigue.

Who knew that such an upper could be such a downer?

Based upon a study done by two Purdue University researchers, the link between diet sodas and weight gain revolves around the artificial sweeteners (again). For ten days, the pair fed the first group of rats sugar-sweetened beverages, and the other group of rats sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages. Then, after ten days, they fed each group chocolate pudding.

Data revealed that the rats who had been fed both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages consumed more calories than the rats who only drank the sugar-sweetened beverage.

What they concluded is that the artificially sweetened beverages, because they lack calories while remaining sweet, interfere with the brain’s ability to judge caloric intake. In a sense, you’re brainwashed into thinking you’re not eating as much as you are, when actually you’re eating more. Diet soda may not directly put pounds on your body, but it can give you a sweet tooth, which will definitely put pounds on your body.

The next time you reach for that Diet Soda, because it’s one of those things, like coffee, that gets you through your day, think again. You may be enjoying the taste, the carbonation and the sweetness, but you’re wreaking havoc on the delicate systems in your body. 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 120 - September 2014
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