Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Jan

The Not So Definitive Guide to Diet Soda

Before I begin, I want to make something clear: this is not your standard definitive guide to whatever. I’d like to be able to issue a proclamation regarding diet soda that stands the test of time immemorial, but I cannot. Research is still in its infancy, and exactly what diet soda does to those who drink it – if anything – is incredibly confusing. The one thing I can say with any certainty is that, while it’s unfair to say it will kill you or give your unborn child prenatal tumors or make you impossibly obese, you’re probably better off without diet soda. It tastes weird, the list of unpronounceable ingredients is too long for my comfort level, and I’ve seen one too many unsuccessful dieters that seem to live on the stuff.

There are two things to consider when making any conclusions about diet soda’s place in a healthy diet. Do the ingredients used in diet soda pose a threat to your short-term or long-term (or that of your offspring’s) health? Is it a kind of sugary methadone, impeding healthy eating by making it harder to kick the desire for sweet things in your mouth because, well, you’re constantly putting things in your mouth that mimic sugar? Let’s dig in.

First, the ingredients. What goes into a can of your average diet soda?

Carbonated water, some sort of food coloring, and preservatives like potassium benzoate are all innocuous enough. Nothing to worry about there. You won’t see Mercola issuing dire warnings about Caramel Color No. 76 anytime soon. It’s the other stuff that interests (or worries) us: artificial sweeteners and (to a lesser extent) phosphoric acid. Let’s take a look at the two major sweeteners in popular use, aspartame and sucralose. Are they dangerous?

Aspartame gets a bad rap. High dose rat studies implicate it as a carcinogen, but in exceedingly large amounts. A can of diet soda a day probably won’t give you cancer. Would I avoid it as a pregnant mother? Yes. Would I be wary of drinking several cans a day? Yes. The basic takeaway is that while the clinical evidence of immediate danger upon normal ingestion of aspartame is lacking, inconclusive, or unclear, the vast amount of anecdotal evidence from people linking aspartame to headaches, migraines, panic attacks, and other maladies gives me great pause. I mean, the stuff tastes horrible, and that’s enough for me, but some people appear to have real health issues with aspartame. Not everyone, obviously, but some do. If aspartame appears to give you trouble, don’t let PubMed convince you that it’s harmless. It may very well be safe in the amounts we typically consume in the majority of people, but you can’t ignore your own experiences.

Also known as Splenda, sucralose is a popular sweetener that’s often called “natural” because it’s the product of selective sucrose chlorination. It’s 3.3 times sweeter than aspartame and 600 times sweeter than sucrose. It seems to have less of a disgusting aftertaste than aspartame (it’s all foul to me, though). Like aspartame, most of the studies reporting negative effects used insanely high doses of sucralose. I’m talking doses in the area of thousands of Splenda packets a day for months on end. I’m no fan, but I don’t think normal consumption of the stuff will kill you. There was a study that found normal doses (between 1.1 and 11.1 mg/kg per day; recommended maximum daily dosage is 5 mg/kg) of sucralose negatively impacted the gut flora in rats and lead to weight gain, although a later review called the study’s results into question. I’ll pass, but thanks, expert panel. There’s also the fact that sucralose is usually combined with something called acesulfame-K (potassium), another sweetener that many researchers think needs more toxicity tests. My take? Studies showing negative effects may be overstated or misguided, but why take the risk for that weird chemical aftertaste? Just avoid the stuff to be on the safe side.

And then there’s phosphoric acid. Here’s how the story supposedly goes: phosphoric acid, which soda makers use in place of pricier citric acid, leaches calcium from your bones and reduces bone mineral density. Is it true? Well, it’s become pretty clear that foods containing dietary phosphorus – like meat, dairy, and other “evil” foods – strengthen bones, rather than leach from them. But phosphorus isn’t exactly the same as phosphoric acid, which epidemiological studies have connected with loss of bone mineral density and osteoporosis. One in particular found that only colas (both diet and regular) were strongly associated with loss of bone mineral density. What do colas have that other diet sodas largely do not? Caffeine plus phosphoric acid. A more recent controlled trial found that only fizzy drinks containing caffeine resulted in increased calcium excretion; phosphoric acid content exerted no effect, either alone or in concert with caffeine. I don’t think we can implicate phosphoric acid just yet.

Okay, but remember: we’ve got to be careful when analyzing a food’s worth by singling out one of its constituent parts for good or for bad (although diet soda is by all definitions not food, it is a consumable whose stated purpose is to help dieters lose weight by avoiding sugar). Let’s judge diet soda on that. It may be technically safe to consume, but does it do its “job”? Does it help us lose weight by replacing our sugar intake with non-caloric sweetener intake and reducing cravings?

By most accounts, no. If you look at the literature, diet soda has repeatedly been shown to correlate with weight gain and increased incidence of metabolic syndrome:

One study found evidence of a linear dose-response; the more diet soda people drank, the more likely they were to be overweight or obese. As Sharon Fowler, the author of the study, puts it, “for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”

Another study, which I covered a couple years ago, analyzed the diets of more than 9,500 men and women between the ages of 45 and 64 and found that drinking diet soda was associated with a 34% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome – the perfect storm of high triglycerides, belly fat, insulin resistance, and obesity that’s so popular nowadays. This was an even stronger association than the one between the “high-meat, high-fat” Western diet and metabolic syndrome.

Authors of both studies speculate that diet soda drinking just extends the life of sugar cravings, rather than eliminating it. In this scenario, diet soda doesn’t regulate the desire for sugar; it increases it, and diet soda drinkers are simply replacing those empty calories with real sugar. This makes sense, and I think it’s part of it, but a couple other studies suggest that something else is going on entirely independent of caloric intake:

The dietary habits and weights of a homogenous group of middle aged women were tracked for a year. Regardless of initial weight status and inexplicable by “food consumption patterns,” users of diet soda were more likely than nonusers to gain weight. They didn’t eat markedly different from non-soda drinkers and yet they got fatter. It continues…

A more recent study broke rats up into two groups. The first received ad libitum oral doses of water sweetened with the maximum Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of saccharin, aspartame, cyclamate, and acesulfame-K (the same formulae used in commercial sweeteners), while the second group received plain water. Both were given ad libitum access to standard rat chow (which usually resembles the SAD: a disgusting mix of vegetable oils and sucrose). While caloric intake did not change between groups, the rats given non-caloric sweeteners experienced greater increases in bodyweight. The rats apparently weren’t driven to eat more because of confused satiety signals, and yet they still gained more weight. What gives?

Are diet soda drinkers eating more actual sweets to make up for the missing calories? Are their satiety signal hormones being altered by some chemical additive? Or is something in the diet soda actually causing weight gain independent of caloric intake?

We simply don’t know. We do know, however, that our bodies respond to everything they encounter. You lift a weight, you send a message to your body (build more muscle, make bones denser, establish neural pathways for movement!). You put food in your mouth, that elicits a response, even before the food hits your gut, as with the carbohydrate mouth rinse that increases athletic performance. It may be that introducing artificial sweeteners directly to your gut (bypassing the tongue) doesn’t affect subjective satiety or satiety hormones, but that’s not how we drink diet sodas. We taste them. With our tongues. And there is a decent amount of (mixed) evidence that certain artificial sweeteners in certain situations in certain individuals can actually elicit hormonal responses from taste alone, leading to hunger that isn’t really there and perhaps even insulin to handle dietary glucose that was never actually eaten. The details of any effect artificial sweeteners have on our hunger hormones are still being teased out, and the subject demands a dedicated post sometime in the future – so stay tuned for that.

In the end, diet sodas contain potentially harmful chemical additives and phosphoric acid that may or may not leach minerals. The majority of people who drink them to lose weight are unsuccessful, and most epidemiological evidence and some clinical evidence has linked diet soda intake to increased obesity, even irrespective of caloric intake. It may be that tasting sweet stuff without a corresponding caloric dose is throwing off our satiety signals and messing with our normal hormonal response to food, or perhaps relying on fake sugar just makes it harder to give up the real stuff.

Of course, whether they have a place in your diet is up to you. Maybe you’ll buck the trend and lose more weight and experience greater relief from sugar cravings with diet soda. Maybe you have one every few days and no more. If you’re a dedicated diet soda addict, maybe experiment with slowly eliminating it from your diet. Drink a bit less than usual and see how you feel. Try to save your 80/20 allowance for something a bit more fun, like maybe a high quality full-fat ice cream or a hunk of super dark chocolate (which actually has some nutritional merit, like good dairy fat). I’m gonna say that ideally you ditch them altogether, mostly because they seem to reinforce bad habits in most people and because the long term effects aren’t fully known.

Whatever you do, don’t start a diet soda habit after reading this post!

Comments? Concerns? Give me your diet soda stories. I want to hear about the aspartame headaches, the effect Splenda has on your satiety, and anything you can think of. Don’t hold back!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I used to be quite keen on sprite zero for a while, but I replaced it with water and right now I think pretty much every kind of soda, diet or not, tastes like horror.

    Kristjan @ Paleo Gateway wrote on January 26th, 2011
  2. I don’t know if anyone has tried this but I have recently heard of making something called kefir sodas with water kefir grains. I have ordered some of them myself but have yet to receive them so I don’t have a personal testimony to their taste. I’ve never been addicted to soda or anything, but I do enjoy drinking bubbly beverages from time to time and with using the water kefir grains to make this you are getting some probiotics as well.

    Sarah wrote on January 26th, 2011
  3. I will occasionally allow myself to have a diet coke… usually when I’m around family members that drink it often, but after reading this, man, I am SO done.

    Gross and not worth it.

    Tara wrote on January 26th, 2011
  4. Honest to goodness, I’ve never had any soda for 5years now. I made it as my New Year’s resolution years ago and I’m just so proud to still stick to this very day.

    Shiela Marvel wrote on January 26th, 2011
  5. I had a bad experience with aspartame a couple of years ago, but I was consuming excessive amounts. Basically, I got hooked on sugar free gum to the extent that it was definitely a compulsive behaviour (I was chewing up to 40 pieces of Orbit daily – I’d chew a piece, then add a second and a third, until the flavour started to go. Then I’d spit that out and start again). I only chewed at work, mind you, but that was enough. The sorbitol (a laxative, I might add) in the gum gave me painful gas after a few hours, but worse than that, I started to experience hormonal fluctuations (I am female and my cycle got completely out of whack, which I initially thought was down to my age, having just turned 40 – but that turned out not to be the case), I got spaced out and felt dizzy often, I had palpitations, then my immune system went down the toilet and I contracted very virus going for about 8 months including a cold, influenza and bronchitis, a 48 hour vomiting but, and on top of that, bad cystitis.
    I did some ‘net research and found a site detailing various symptoms of aspartame poisoning, and many of mine were listed. I went gum cold turkey and also stopped drinking Diet Coke. Within a few months I was better.

    I guess in limited doses, it’s not all that bad, but I do view it as a poison, and one that I am very wary about consuming again. I stick to water now, if I want a cold drink, and I leave gum well alone.

    Indiscreet wrote on January 26th, 2011
  6. I am a faithful Diet Coke drinker, and reading this does make me want to stop. However, I wonder if it’s pointless to stop the Diet Coke if I still intend to use Equal in my yogurt and other products I want to sweeten? I guess I just don’t know enough about acceptable (Primal) natural and artificial sweeteners to be able to see the bigger picture here…

    Rachel wrote on January 26th, 2011
  7. Mark, you didn’t include what I figured would be the core of your post- Grok certainly did not consume anything resembling soda, diet or otherwise. Sure, it may not kill you right away, but from a primal perspective, it has no health benefits and possible health concerns. Wouldn’t that fall under the “avoid poisonous things” category?

    Katie wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Katie, you are right in that Grok did not consume anything like soda, and there are no health benefits to be derived from doing so. As you can see from some of the comments, even some dedicated long time Primal converts still sneak a diet soda (or more) once in a while. The stuff is ubiquitous. MDA is about finding ways to incorporate the Primal Blueprint principles into real life. I want people to understand the possible ramifications of their choices. I write pieces like this almost more to appeal to first-time visitors who really haven’t a clue than to die-hard MDAers, because real life still offers temptations. This piece just took a look at the existing science behind what happens when you drink soda. No judgment (Okay, maybe just a little). And, yes, it still falls into “avoid poisonous things.”

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 26th, 2011
  8. Hi I gave up diet soda. Hansen’s Diet Ginger ale was my favorite. Drank 4-6 a day.
    Now all I drink is water and sometimes herbal tea.
    I also drink perrier or other unsweetened sparkling water to get the ‘fizz’ that i miss from soda. Is carbonated water fine?

    Gayle wrote on January 26th, 2011
  9. Aspartame is the reason I had 20 years of horrendous migraines. Haven’t had any sort of headache for the last year, tho, after purging my cabinets and fridge of aspartame-containing items, including syrup, pickled ginger, Jello and chewing gum. Trident cinnamon is the only gum I’ve found that’s aspartame-free, and there are a few diet sodas sweetened with sucralose rather than aspartame.

    Susan wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Sucralose & Acesulfame-K are exactly what gave me horrendous migraines, though! I don’t think it’s much of an improvement over aspartame.

      Dawn wrote on January 26th, 2011
      • I second that. Awful migraines from sucralose.

        Lucy wrote on January 27th, 2011
  10. I’m a dedicated diet soda drinker who gives this a lot of consideration . Wishing to test the theory that artificial sweeteners cause insulin response; I measured my blood sugar before drinking soda, then at various intervals after and there was no fluctuation .

    rauth wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Also… fearing that it might somehow effect my training negatively I abstained for two weeks and experienced know appreciable difference. That being said, I’m still convinced that it’s killing me somehow.

      rauth wrote on January 26th, 2011
  11. I notice that a number of my larger very non-primal co-workers will order burger & fries for lunch or a giant burrito, along with a diet soda — as if the soda is a nod toward watching their calories. There is definitely a disconnect here…

    EvadneFrances wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • I’ve seen people do that too. Diet soda is the great enabler.

      Shari wrote on January 26th, 2011
  12. I began drinking diet sodas in the’70s. I was very thin at the time.It did not cause weight gain or sugar cravings.I did refrain from drinking soda, of any kind, while pregnant.

    Diet Pepsi was my lifeline for many years when I was suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease. I’m sure it was the caffeine that helped me function and take care of my children.

    My weight gain was directly correlated to my thyroid issues. A little over 2 years ago, I was finally adequately medicated in regards to thyroid. By this time I was 65+ pounds overweight.

    Today finds me 65lbs lighter. I lost the weight while consuming several cans of Diet Pepsi daily. My bone density, once in the osteopenia range, has improved and is now normal. My fasting blood sugar in Oct,2010 was 83, fasting insulin was <2, HbA1c-4.7.

    Around Thanksgiving 2010 I decided to do the Whole30 challenge to see if I could give up my Diet Pepsi. I went 50 days without DP and then,deliberately, drank one can. It didn't taste as good as I remember and gave me indigestion. I haven't had any more since that one can.

    I don't think DP creates any issues for me. I have no plans to return to my "many cans a day" habit. I think I'll just take it day by day. Today I am DP free.

    marcadav wrote on January 26th, 2011
  13. This is a big deal to me, There are (were) 3 women in my immediate family diagnosed with MS. They were all heavy. They were advised to lose weight. They all started low fat diets. They all developed Gallstones and had their gallbladders removed. They all suffer from Migraines. One had diabetes. THEY ALL DRANK MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF DIET SODA TO LOSE WEIGHT. MS is NOT supposed to be hereditary! There is a link between diet soda/artificial sweeteners and MS. If you know of any further research in this department please post!
    (FYI) I avoid all artificial sweeteners because I have had some brutal migraines that can only be associated with them, and I fixed my own gallbladder after being scheduled for surgery with a HIGH FAT diet…lol

    juliemama wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • I have MS and I do know that they claim MS and aspartame do not mix well ,and diagnosising MS if you are a die hard diet pop drinker can be a little harder ,as to much aspartame will mimic the sign’s of MS . I have been told by my Dr’s that I would be so much better off drinking regular pop rather than diet if I was going to continue drinking pop .I have almost quit completely with no side affect and I was a die hard 3 to 4 two liters a day of Diet Pepsi or Diet Dr Pepper .I have gone to ice tea ,and seem to be doing better .

      Carolyn wrote on January 30th, 2011
  14. A model of scientific objectivity. I used to have one or two diet Cokes per day in hot weather, some in cooler. Now I might have one or two a week in hot weather, none in cooler. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight. They taste better, and less sweet than Cokes with sugar. I don’t get a sweet response from them at all, nor an unpleasant one.

    Harry wrote on January 26th, 2011
  15. On a lighter (pun intended) note, I worked for Outback Steakhouse for 13 years and was always amazed at how overweight people would order Cheese fries or a Bloomin onion…and a diet for real? It isnt going to negate the trash you are about to consume..

    juliemama wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • I used to work at a buffet. It was not uncommon to see obese guests order diet coke, then return to the buffet line 3 or 4 times.

      fritzy wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Not a big deal – just goes to show that they too prefer the taste of the diet better…cuz they certainly ones to choose for health reasons.

      SkepticScientist wrote on August 23rd, 2011
  16. Stevia – in rats, it stimulates pancreatic beta cells to produce insulin. Im wondering if this is why (despite low carb diet with great attention to low glycemic veg) my A1c is in the 5.5-5.8 range (should be in 4s low 5s). Fasting BS are low 80s. Could be that ketogenic diet has me somewhat insulin resistant, but looking forward to your upcoming article with more thoughts on this. It is my biggest remaining “vice” but at 19 BMI and less that 15% body fat, I kind of “rely” on it.

    deb b wrote on January 26th, 2011
  17. I don’t really drink soda (softdrink in Australia) and never have. Mum always made us drink a truckload of water before we were allowed any where near juice as kids. And until I ‘went primal’ I always diluted juice in 2 parts water (too sweet). But the real reason I’m adding to this discussion was a memory I have that always springs to mind when I think about obesity and soda.

    I was in a shopping centre one day and heard an obese little girl (4 or 5 years I guess) who was being pushed around in a trolley by her mother (who was a little overweight but not obese). The little girl had a diet coke with a straw in her hands, and said to her mother ‘Mum, I’m thirsty’. Her mother scoffed and said, ‘You have a drink stop complaining’. I nearly cried.

    Dino Babe wrote on January 26th, 2011
  18. I have never had one can/bottle/cup of soda in my life. My mother never gave it to me, and I never wanted it. Sure, it made me the “weird kid” at birthday parties growing up, but I never wanted a drink that made “my tongue hurt.”

    Fast forward to being an adult and I think it is one of the reasons why I have always been healthier than most Americans. All of that water or even juice and milk instead of soda over the years has really paid off!

    The sad part is that when people hear that I’ve never had a soft drink, people think I’m from Mars or something. How did I survive the 80s as a kid, during the height of the cola wars, without trying one? No Pepsi taste test, really? People think it is crazy that I have not put such things in my body, wouldn’t Grok think it was crazy if I did? :)

    Emily wrote on January 26th, 2011
  19. I enjoyed your read on diet sodas and sweeteners! My boyfriend and I avoid all kinds of soda at all costs for that reason of them containing strange chemicals. However, with regards to sweeteners, we have had extreme difficulty finding good protein mixes for ease and protein supplements when on the go that don’t contain some form of artificial sweetener. I think this whole artificial sweetener thing is the new HFCS to help accomodate the sweet palates of Americans. Now that we’ve cut out most sweets in our diets we find that the artificial sweeteners are too sweet and don’t sit well in our bellies. We recently have found all natural whey protein that we can purchase in bulk and find it much more satisfying.

    Stacey wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Isopure makes a whey protien isolate that is flavor free–no artificial anything–just pure whey protien. I occasionally mix it with 8 ounces of coconut milk, 4 ounces of water and a bit of vanilla extract. If I’m recovering from a workout, I’ll add a frozen banana (if not, a few berries for fewer carbs.)

      fritzy wrote on January 26th, 2011
  20. I don’t do diet, but I do have a slight addiction to Coca Cola & Whiskey (Jim Beam specifically). mmmn.. Anyway, only on the weekends (Fri & Sat night), then drink only water during the week (except the morning cup of coffee & occasional beer). I do love this combo but know I would be much better off without it. Maybe this can squeak by as part of my 20%??

    Ray wrote on January 26th, 2011
  21. Meh, to me diet soda is just a cop out for people who want to feel good about doing something healthy but truly aren’t. Be comfortable with your choice and either choose to drink it or not, don’t straddle the fence and think you’re doing well.

    Nicky Spur wrote on January 26th, 2011
  22. Thanks for the post Mark. Very informative. I was unaware that the jury was still out on the effects of phosphoric acid.

    I consider myself lucky–I’ve found most soda to unpalatable slop once I got past the age of about 14, and diet soda to be slightly less appetizing than a bile burp (which, incidentally, diet soda causes me to have, so it’s like double the fun,) so I can’t imagine what it would be like to be addicted to it. My heart goes out to those who can’t kick the habit.

    One of the doctors on “The Doctors” called soda “a cigarette in a can.” Although I find myself facepalming at a lot of what they say on that show, I really liked this. Except that, on the whole, I think the soda might arguably be worse for the human body.

    fritzy wrote on January 26th, 2011
  23. I’ve loved diet soda for years and never had any ill effects or felt any craving for sweets (my downfalls are fat and salt, not sugar; pass me that pepperoni, pal). However, in December I kicked the caffeinated soda habit not because of health concerns per se, although I hoped cutting caffeine might reduce my stress, but for environmental reasons; too many cans, even though I recycle. So far, so good, although there’s some suggestion that caffeine is good for you. I don’t really want to renew my addiction, but…?

    Dru wrote on January 26th, 2011
  24. Great post Mark!

    What some people may not realize is that Splenda (it sounds so festive, doesn’t it?) was discovered in 1989 by two researchers, Leslie Hough and Shashicant Phadnis), as they were trying to develop a new insecticide at Queen Elizabeth College in London, England.

    Splenda is sugar that has had 3 OH ions replaced with 3 chlorine (Cl) atoms.

    This makes it a “chlorocarbon,” in the same family as DDT and carbon tetrachloride (CCL4), chemicals that are best admired at arm’s length. (If you have ever taken chemistry in college, you know that carbon tetrachloride causes liver cancer, and I’m sure you know all about DDT, with the fragile bird’s eggs…).

    When this potential insecticide was isolated, one of the researchers (the boss, Leslie Hough) said “Test it.”, while the other (the underling, Phadnis Shashicant) heard “Taste it.”

    Upon tasting the new compound, it was found to be very sweet (600x sweeter than sugar).

    In the quest for a new insecticide, a new artificial sweetener was born.

    I agree with you Mark, the bad taste alone is enough to eliminate this artificial sweetener from my cupboard.

    By the way, Splenda was introduced on April Fool’s Day, 1998. Kind of strange…


    Rob wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Thanks for the interesting yet disturbing trivia, Rob!

      Incidentally, if you go on the official Splenda website FAQ section, you find: “Q: Does sucralose contain DDT? A: No, sucralose does not contain DDT.” Which, technically, is absolutely true. It doesn’t “contain” DDT; it’s just structually similar… So that’s okay, then?!

      I actually sent them an email when I discovered that sucralose was the trigger of my horrendous migraines, and they sent me an automatic response that they would get back to me later. The only response I ever had is that they put me on their recipe club mailing list.

      Dawn wrote on January 26th, 2011
  25. I started drinking diet soda as a young teen, so it wasn’t ever really about the weight – I just didn’t like the heaviness of regular Coke. (After diet soda, regular soda is like motor oil – UGH!)

    About 11 years ago, I decided to stop my 4 can a day habit cold turkey. MISTAKE – I ended up sitting in my car crying my eyes out because I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go and eat lunch. I went to my doctor and he told me that aspertame is very similar to SSRIs (antidepressants), and that I had been self-medicating and the sudden stop caused the panic attack.

    Has anyone else heard of an aspertame/SSRI connection?

    I went back to eating wheat, got divorced, gained all the weight back and got unhealthy again, so I want to go Primal to improve my health. However, I am *terrified* of giving up the diet soda if I’m gonna go through those kinds of experiences!

    Eliz67 wrote on January 26th, 2011
    • Aspartame blocks seritonin. I think this is why we have a epidemic of depression and the subsequent explosion of people being on anti-depressants. Back off slowly from the diet drinks and you’ll evntually get off of them.

      Dave, RN wrote on January 26th, 2011
  26. I literally ‘ate’ tens thousands of artificial sweeteners containing cyclamate all throughout my 100+ pound drop. While I’m not a fan of diet drinks (it’s Coke Classic or nothing,) I still use it daily. For me, it made the difference between enjoying this lifestyle and perhaps finding myself like the other 95% that fail at this, bitter that I couldn’t maintain.

    Haggus wrote on January 26th, 2011
  27. ” Another study, which I covered a couple years ago, analyzed the diets of more than 9,500 men and women between the ages of 45 and 64 and found that drinking diet soda was associated with a 34% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome – the perfect storm of high triglycerides, belly fat, insulin resistance, and obesity that’s so popular nowadays. This was an even stronger association than the one between the “high-meat, high-fat” Western diet and metabolic syndrome.”

    This may of course be so strongly correlated because typically people who are overweight or even obese are more prone to using diet soda in an attempt to reduce caloric intake. But what actually happens is that they will compensate by eating more. Back in the days I would often eat some sweets or chocolate *because* I was saving so many calories through diet soda. Some “naturally lean” friends of mine on the other hand drink standard sugary sodas with every meal, but not large quantities, and they don’t overeat sweets.

    My take on diet soda: Aspartame may be harmful … or not. In the absence of definitive evidence, I would still recommend against diet soda – simply because it has no beneficial effect at all. Drink water – especially in the summer that will also save you a lot of money. And for variety, consider unsweetened tea, which comes in many interesting flavors … many of which are also free of caffeine. My favorite: Organic Chai.

    MikeEnRegalia wrote on January 27th, 2011
  28. I never allowed my children, ages 17 & 23 to have anything diet. I would rather they ate and drank sugar than chemicals. I have not had any soda in about 15 years and don’t miss it one bit.

    Diane wrote on January 27th, 2011
  29. Every once in a great while I’ll cave and have a diet coke…AAnnd after the first few sips I usually feel so gross and bloated I can never finish the whole thing! I highly suggest to anyone trying to ditch the habit to try flavored seltzer water, once you get used to it it’s really quite satisfying esp. if you gotta have something with fizz!

    Ashley North wrote on January 27th, 2011
  30. Man, one of the really great things about this blog is Sisson’s obvious desire to be fair by pointing to both sides of an argument. Well done.

    Phocion Timon wrote on January 27th, 2011
  31. I can tell you that DietCoke has been the bane of my existence for years. There was a serious addiction there… and the amount I could drink sometimes was frightening.

    Anyway, I’ve tried giving it up several times in the past year with some good successes (4 months once), and then had one can and back into it. So for me.. no more ever.

    I’m convinced it’s the major reason I gained the weight, developed metabolic issues and killed the good bacteria in my gut. Time will tell, hopefully after being with out it for 4-6 months I can heal up most of the damage.

    Minxxa wrote on January 27th, 2011
  32. Other than the occasional protein shake, I’ve never used artificial sweeteners because I hated the taste. But, I drank a lot & I mean a lot of regular soda for years before I gave up about 4 or 5-years ago. I became convinced that cola’s were causing me allergy problems. Gave up cold turkey, which was surprisingly was easy. I did substitute non-sweetened ice tea for at least a little caffeine which may have helped. Did my allergies improve? No. Not one bit. And I also did not drop a single pound of weight. As far as I could tell I didn’t change any other eating habits, but I must have made up the calories lost somewhere else. Never went back as there’s no way that much sugar could be good for anyone. I haven’t even had it as an occasional treat as I was a real junky and I’m afraid it will be right back to uncontrolled behavior. However, I must admit I’m more tempted lately primarily by some of the sodas going back to sugar over HFCS & several local restaurants offering Boylan’s Soda as a fountain option. Probably won’t do it, but even old addictions have their pull.

    Btw, after my failure on controlling my allergy issues by giving up soda, I determined that the likely cause was chocolate. Give up chocolate or live with my allergies? Excuse me while I sneeze, but I think you know which chose I made. :)

    BC wrote on January 27th, 2011
  33. Years ago one of my daughters friends told me that she had never had a soda because her parents wouldn’t let her. I felt sorry for her at first but then I started to do a little research. After what I found out, I stopped cold-turkey. Haven’t had a soda in 4 years.

    John wrote on January 27th, 2011
  34. Quit Diet Coke several years ago in favor of tea. Do not miss it at all. My modest food budget is not wasted on items with no nutritional or antioxidant value.

    Sonagi wrote on January 27th, 2011
  35. What about Stevia?? Any thoughts about it?

    Rafa wrote on January 27th, 2011

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