Put that diet soda down!

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Thanks to newbirth35 for the photo.
  • Thanks to newbirth35 for the photo.

It's in your best interest. I swear. Don't believe me? Check out Tom Philpott's post on Grist.org:

When I wrote about diet soda and and its health effects last week, I didn't expect much of a reaction. I guess in the back of my mind, I was thinking, people still drink that stuff?

Well, they do -- by the bucketful. Overall, U.S. soda consumption is declining slowly, but Americans still drink more soda than than anyone else on the planet, by a wide margin. According to one reckoning, the average American drinks 736 "eight-ounce servings" each year (though "eight-ounce serving" seems like a quaint notion in the age of the Big Gulp). I can't find good figures on how much of that gusher is diet soda, but apparently it's a lot. According to AdBrands.net, four of the top 10 leading U.S. soda brands are diet versions of big names like Coke and Pepsi.

Tom goes on to discuss how aspartame, the sweetener in diet sodas, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Read his entire post here. And be sure to reference the one that came directly before it, too. Here's a snip:

In plain English, Diet Pepsi consists of artificially blackened water tarted up with synthetic chemicals. The references to "natural flavor" and (chemical-induced) "freshness" aside, what really gives Diet Pepsi its main flavor -- that special jolt of sweetness -- is aspartame, the famous calorie-free sugar substitute.

What aspartame lacks in calories it more than makes up for in baggage. Italian researchers recently added [PDF] to a long-standing and growing body of literature pointing to aspartame's possible role as a carcinogen. Their conclusion, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, was stark: "The results of this mega-experiment indicate that [aspartame] is a multipotential carcinogenic agent, even at a daily dose of 20 mg/kg body weight, much less than the current acceptable daily intake."

How did the FDA ever allow it into the food supply, where it now flourishes as the industry's go-to fake sweetener? Funny you should ask. The agency's decision to approve aspartame, which came down during the Reagan era, ranked as its most controversial ever at the time. The story is a lively one -- it involves Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush's famously gruff defense secretary, now making headlines as he pimps his newly published memoirs; and Monsanto, that ever-charming agrichemical giant.

Read the entire post here.

Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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