Prompted by a recent article I came across online, regarding the alleged harmful ingredient aspartame, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about Diet Coke.
Why Diet Coke and not Diet Pepsi, you ask? There are a lot of choices of “diet” beverages out there. I am targeting Diet Coke because Coca Cola itself claims “Diet Coke is the most popular sugar-free soft drink in America”. We believe it.
I have spent the better part of an hour researching all the things I will note below, but before drumming along too far, can we just state my obvious position on this subject? Then, I will move on and tell you the truth about Diet Coke and I will leave it up to you to decide if you’ll accept my challenge to put it down ~ cold turkey. The most disturbing thing about the last hour is what I’ve written in the last paragraph of this post. Interesting.
My Obvious Position on Diet Coke:
Soda (aka soft drinks, pop, cola, etc…), whether it be Diet Coke or any of the other choices available on the market, is not good for you. We should not drink it. We should drink water. Lots and lots of water.
Here are a few well-known reasons why we should refrain:
~ Soda has been proven to decay teeth (yes, that goes for the diet variety too – phosphoric acid is to blame).
~ It has been linked to decreased kidney function in adults that drink it regularly (possibly from the caramel color?).
~ It is also linked to osteoporosis and decreased bone density.
~ It can cause dehydration from the caffeine, but also preventing us from drinking what we actually need, which is water because we don’t notice we are thirsty.
~ Finally, I think it is a waste of money since you can drink filtered tap water for much, much less coin.
That is why I personally think you should stop drinking all soda, including Diet Coke. Your body deserves water, instead. I am not sure how our culture became so soda centered and obsessed (especially teens!), but it is; Americans are consuming 20% more diet sodas now than they did 15-years ago. Recent study is extremely alarming and shocking; those who drink diet drinks with aspartame have an increased waist circumference compared to those who do not! What? Read this Men’s Health article that does a great job of putting it into layman’s terms. I think the old saying “if it seems too good to be true, it is” comes to mind when I think of Diet Coke. We think we can drink as many as we’d like because it’s 0 calories.
As with anything else that you will hear me blog about, I think anything in moderation is o.k., so I’m really addressing the consumers of many Cokes, here, not the once in a while consumer. I have been known to enjoy one, once in a while too, but NEVER the diet, always regular. And by once in a while, I mean like 6 a year. I kind of like the stance of the Mayo Clinic on the subject.
The Truth About Diet Coke:
The ingredients in one can of Diet Coke are as follows:
Carbonated Water : is water into which carbon dioxide gas under pressure has been dissolved, a process that causes the water to become effervescent, according to Wikipedia. There are no known health risks with drinking carbonated water by itself.
Caramel Color : is what they use to make the Diet Coke the silky brown color we are all expecting when we pop open a can. It is made by heating sugar (usually) until the desired color is achieved. It is a known carcinogen because of the way the corporations choose to make it, by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temps. Chemical reaction occurs and produces 2-commonly studied formations: 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole. This concoction is linked to lung cancer, liver cancer, thyroid problems, leukemia, etc… Especially in doses that are commonly occurring all across America, with our super-sized fountain Diet Cokes. Coca Cola has changed its formula as recent as 2011 because of concerns about its safety, and quite honestly, because California was going to insist it put a cancer label on its can. Instead, they change the formula. It will take at least several years, for that to be studied; I cannot find conclusive evidence about the new caramel color found in a Diet Coke today, and, for the record, I am just as confused as you are. Sound safe?
Aspartame : is a low-calorie sweetener made from 2-amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Because it is 200% sweeter than regular sugar, it is used in tiny, tiny doses. The official statement concerning aspartame, goes like this: The weight of existing scientific evidence indicates that aspartame is safe at current levels of consumption as a non-nutritive sweetener. There you have it. It’s up to you, whether you are comfortable accepting the official statement, that it is safe in the dose that we are consuming. In large doses, it’s definitely linked to serious health concerns. And, recent studies show that frequent diet soda (aspartame) drinkers have substantially larger waist circumference than those who don’t drink diet drinks. Aspartame might be one of the most controversial substances of my lifetime. There are more reports about aspartame than I can keep up with. I would also like to point out, we live in a country where corporations get their way, for decades, before the evidence is conclusive that it’s bad for you. Think Marlboro. What a difference a decade can make.
Phosphoric Acid : is used to add tartness to the taste of beverages; it is a mineral acid. It is available cheaply and in very large quantities. It has been linked to lower bone density since 1996. The official finding was that women who consumed cola daily had lower bone density. They have also theorized, combining phosphoric acid with caffeine, is the reason – that phosphoric acid alone does not cause decreased bone density. Other studies have dispelled the research all together and simply state, those who drink many soft drinks daily do not consume calcium rich drinks such as milk or eat calcium rich foods and that’s why they have decreased bone density. So, basically, they are less healthy eaters and the link has nothing to do with soda at all. Both are believable theories. Want to flip a coin?
Potassium Benzoate : is a food preservative that inhibits the growth of mold, yeast and some bacteria. That statement alone, makes me want to drink some, how about you? When combined with vitamin C or sodium, it is believed to be a carcinogen called benzene. As with anything else, the findings are suspect. It’s hard to tell if the chemical reaction between potassium benzoate and citric acid (as opposed to Ascorbic Acid) creates benzene, as well. It’s hard to make out fact, from fiction when researching this. The Examiner makes a good point, when it poses the question, do we need to exacerbate the risk of lowered life expectancy, by use of something that is only meant to extend a product’s shelf life, for a few months? Good question.
Natural Flavors : since I’m not sure what natural flavors they refer to, I guess we will skip over this.
Citric Acid : is a commodity chemical, a weak organic acid, which originated from lemon juice. It has actually been shown to prevent kidney stones, but all of the healthful effects research has come from natural fruit and vegetable sources, not Diet Coke. Saying Diet Coke is healthy because of the Citric Acid would be like saying ice cream is healthy because of the calcium in the cream used to make it.
Caffeine : a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine. It is controversial. It is addictive. It has health benefits and concerns and should be an entire blog post in itself. Basically, you should refrain from drinking too much caffeine. And the studies, on the effects on fetus’, are confirmed and should be taken very seriously.
The truth about Diet Coke is what you probably already know. You should avoid drinking it. It may not be terrible for you in small doses, but it certainly isn’t good for you. The fact that it’s actually making our waistline bigger, should be enough for us to quit! It is not “proven” to be harmful to your health, but neither are a lot of things that we consume in America, even though doctors everywhere are sounding the alarm bells. Think pesticides and hydrogenated oils. It’s also not beneficial to our health. I will state again, that in moderation, it’s probably o.k., but we should try to avoid it. And those of us that drink multiple Diet Cokes a day, my advice is: STOP. You’ll probably feel better for it and your organs will certainly thank you, not to mention your waistline. Also, the chance that you might actually have room in your stomach to drink something else, with some benefit, like ummm water, might actually make you healthier in the long run.
On a Seemingly Unrelated Note, or Not:
I want to share a disturbing thing I found during research, that seems unrelated, unless you put lemon in your Diet Coke, like my husband used to do. During dinners out, he commonly ordered a Diet Coke with lemon. How many of you have done that? When you combine potassium benzoate with ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin c (found in lemons and many other things) it turns into benzene, a known carcinogen. The harmful compound that has been proven to have harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It is a very scary combination to consume. And, even scarier, vitamin c is found in many foods. It makes me wonder if you eat those foods while drinking a Diet Coke, does the same interaction happen? It’s worth wondering about. This may be a future blog post…
So, in close, will you take my challenge to quit Diet Coke, cold turkey? I know you can do it.