Diet Soda and Aspartame: Surprising Health Risks

The "Natural Health Minute" is by David Rodgers, L.N., M.S., a Licensed Nutritionist practicing in Berkley at the Nutrient Balance Center. This week, find out about diet soda and Aspartame risks.

Before I begin with a discussion about Aspartame, let me introduce you to a primary reason that the government and the major medical establishment very often gets things wrong and backwards when it comes to health and the safety of foods, drugs, and procedures: They only care about acute health, not chronic health. If something doesn’t kill you within two to three weeks, it is considered safe. This is true of pesticides on food products, rBGH hormones in dairy, mercury fillings in teeth, genetically modified foods, MSG, Aspartame, and more, all of which are considered completely safe by the government and FDA.

Low level, long term exposure is harder and more costly to study, and companies itching to get a product on the market very often have “friends” in high level government positions that help to clear up any red tape very quickly. One such friend is Michael R. Taylor, the current FDA Deputy Commissioner of Foods, and the Vice President of Monsanto Corporation from 1996-2000. During Taylor’s years at Monsanto, the company owned NutraSweet, which you know as the pink packets of Aspartame available on restaurant tables.

Aspartame didn’t immediately kill laboratory rats, it didn’t contain calories, and it tasted sweet. It got the stamp of approval in 1974. Fast forward about 30+ years, and new startling studies regarding long term effects on humans are being released left and right. The new studies indicate that Aspartame is correlated with:

-        Higher levels of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (67% and 36%, respectively). (1)

-        Higher risk of heart attack and stroke (48%). (2)

-        Higher risk of urinary tract tumors (118%). (3)

-        Obesity and increased hunger levels (41% increased risk per daily can of diet soda, which is even a higher risk than regular soda). (4, 5).

Two of these conditions should be particularly shocking: diabetes and obesity. People who have diabetes are encouraged to limit or eliminate sugar and instead have diet soda and Aspartame-sweetened desserts. People who are overweight are encouraged to make a switch from regular to diet soda to limit calories. It should be pretty alarming that the so-called solution to these conditions is doing the opposite and making things much worse.

Granted, these studies are relatively new. They have not been confirmed, and they are all correlation-based. This indicates that it is not a guarantee that the Aspartame content is the exact cause of these increased risks – there could be other factors involved. But when it comes to human health, it is my opinion that new chemically-produced products should be subject to the opposite of our legal system's declaration, in other words “guilty until proven innocent.” This is the only way to ensure safety for public health. Although Aspartame is no longer new, it never had complete and long-term human studies verifying a lack of risks.

The more studies that I read, and the more studies that continue to be done, I continue to see that in the vast majority of cases, foods that are completely natural (rather than chemically-produced or factory-altered) are the safest. Keep reading next week to find out how to enjoy sweet soft drinks naturally without the sugar or the Aspartame.

  1. Nettleton JA, Lutsey PL, Wang Y, Lima JA, Michos ED, Jacobs DR. Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care. 2009;32(4):688-94.
  2. Laino, Charlene. “Is Diet Soda Linked to Heart, Stroke Risk.” WebMD, Feb 2011. Web. 2 May 2013. http://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20110209/is-diet-soda-linked-to-heart-stroke-risk?%29
  3. Andreatta MM, Muñoz SE, Lantieri MJ, Eynard AR, Navarro A. Artificial sweetener consumption and urinary tract tumors in Cordoba, Argentina. Prev Med. 2008;47(1):136-9.
  4. DeNoon, Daniel. “Drink More Diet Soda, Gain More Weight?.” WebMD, June 2005. Web. 2  May 2013. http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20050613/drink-more-diet-soda-gain-more-weight
  5. Lavin JH, French SJ, Read NW. The effect of sucrose- and aspartame-sweetened drinks on energy intake, hunger and food choice of female, moderately restrained eaters. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997;21(1):37-42.

David Rodgers, L.N., M.S. is a Licensed Nutritionist practicing in Berkley at the Nutrient Balance Center. He specializes in helping people with Chronic Lyme Disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, weight loss, heart disease, diabetes, digestive conditions, lupus, MS, and more by using dietary changes, targeted natural supplements, detoxification, and lifestyle modification. For more information, as well as free training video seminars, see www.nutrientbalance.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kevin G May 04, 2013 at 11:59 PM
Imagine THAT Maureen, a bunch of big industries purchased the lobbyists it took to get it passed. Aspartame is poison & you have bought it hook line & sinker. Sure it doesn't cause cancer, but it DOES cause:
Kevin G May 05, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Adverse reactions and side effects of aspartame include: Eye blindness in one or both eyes decreased vision and/or other eye problems such as: blurring, bright flashes, squiggly lines, tunnel vision, decreased night vision pain in one or both eyes decreased tears trouble with contact lenses bulging eyes Ear tinnitus - ringing or buzzing sound severe intolerance of noise marked hearing impairment Neurologic epileptic seizures headaches, migraines and (some severe) dizziness, unsteadiness, both confusion, memory loss, both severe drowsiness and sleepiness paresthesia or numbness of the limbs severe slurring of speech severe hyperactivity and restless legs atypical facial pain severe tremors Psychological/Psychiatric severe depression irritability aggression anxiety personality changes insomnia phobias Chest palpitations, tachycardia shortness of breath recent high blood pressure Gastrointestinal nausea diarrhea, sometimes with blood in stools abdominal pain pain when swallowing Skin and Allergies itching without a rash lip and mouth reactions hives aggravated respiratory allergies such as asthma Endocrine and Metabolic loss of control of diabetes menstrual changes marked thinning or loss of hair marked weight loss gradual weight gain aggravated low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) severe PMS
Kevin G May 05, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Also Maureen, if you want to truly help your chubby friends, tell them to drink water. Diet pop doesn't have full easier to process real sugar, but it does cause iodine deficiencies which in turn cause obesity. Beyond that, the amount of water it takes to digest all the ingredients in that pop can are about 10/12 oz waters to 1 12 oz pop, just to process that pop, & while your digestive system is straining so hard to do that the rest of your body is being dehydrated. I can go on FOREVER with the facts about how poisonous so many convenience foods contain.
Angela Tolly May 08, 2013 at 02:09 AM
Have you done any research on Spenda?
David Rodgers May 08, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Angela, There is much less research available on Splenda (also known as sucralose), as it was only approved in 1998. Therefore I can't fully say whether it is safe or not, especially considering that the negative studies on Aspartame started to be revealed 30 years after approval. One thing to note is that it has significantly more calories than stated. It is called a "zero-calorie" sweetener because anything with less than 5 calories is allowed to be labeled zero. This is only true of a single serving Splenda packet (3.36 calories). The same amount of sugar has 10.8 calories. So, rather than being zero in any quantity, it has about 30% of the calories of an equivalent amount of sugar. This is probably why significantly sweet beverages haven't made the switch to Splenda - they could no longer label the full serving "zero calories". There is one troubling bit of info about Spenda - rats consuming an amount that would equate to lower than the safe upper limit level set by the FDA showed a decrease in beneficial bacteria in the stool (and therefore intestines), a change in intestinal pH, and a reduction in the ability to absorb drugs (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15287390802328630#.UYqdH8r_GtM). That study alone is certainly not enough to label Splenda unhealthy, but, again, I can't judge its healthiness yet. But, stay tuned for this week's column.


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