Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Diet Soda: A Sweet Lie

A Sweet Lie. Don't Be Deceived. 
    Aspartame, does that name sound familiar? How about its commercial names, Nutrasweet and Equal? Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used in 6,000 diet food products, including one you're probably enjoying right now: diet soda. It seems like the healthier choice, choosing diet soda over regular. Why not swap out 160 calories for a can of sweet, caffeinated, bubbly goodness? Eat less calories, lose weight, and still get your sugar fix. What could go wrong? Read on my friend, read on. 
       Consuming aspartame containing diet products is making a deal with Monsanto the devil. Zero calories comes with hundreds of serious health consequences. Put down your Diet Coke, and look at what you're really eating. 
       Aspartame is composed of three compounds: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, all of which are extremely toxic to your body.
       Let's start with aspartic acid, 40% of aspartame. It is HIGHLY dangerous when in excess because it's a potent excitotoxin that overstimulates the neurons (brain cells) to death. It's especially harmful since it can pass the blood brain barrier straight into your 
       An excess of aspartic acid can cause adverse reactions such as headaches/ migraines, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. This explains A LOT. Every time I drink Diet Coke, I get a headache after. When I drink it while studying, I feel anxious and have difficulty concentrating. I thought this was just because of test nerves, but I never feel these effects when I choose coffee or water instead. I would tell you to think about what you just read, but if you're drinking a diet soda now, that's probably going to be hard. 

       Phenylalanine, which makes up 50% of aspartame, is found in dangerously high blood levels immediately after ingestion. This occurrence is extremely concerning since an overflow of phenylalanine has crazy effects...literally. Too much of this compound decreases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is what's known as your "happy" neurotransmitter. A balance of it ensures that you are emotionally stable. When serotonin levels drop after aspartame consumption, users can fall into depressed moods or even raging mood swings. 

Amanda Bynes Drinks Diet Coke...
Look How That Turned Out
       The last, and perhaps the worst, component of aspartame is methanol. It is only 10% of aspartame, which may seem like a negligible amount, but it's excreted very slowly from the body so it easily accumulates to toxic levels. Monsanto, the manufacturer of aspartame, asserts that methanol poisoning is not an issue since free methanol is only released when aspartame is heated to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. What Monsanto forgot to mention is that human body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as aspartame is consumed, its weak chemical bonds are broken by body heat and methanol deposits into your tissues.
       The EPA states that no more than 7.8 mg of aspartame should be consumed per day. 1 liter of diet soda, which is much less than the average person's daily intake, contains 56 mg. It is incredibly easy to get methanol poisoning from aspartame sweetened products. The symptoms of methanol poisoning include headaches, dizziness, vertigo, memory lapses, blurry vision, body numbness, neuritis, and behavioral disturbances. During Desert Storm, the US troops were "gifted" diet drinks. These drinks sat in the 120 degree Saudi Arabian sun. The results were disastrous as many of the troops suffered these symptoms in epidemic proportions. This outbreak was coined "Desert Storm Syndrome."
       Methanol degrades into an even worse substance in the human body: formaldehyde. That's right, FORMALDEHYDE! The same chemical that was used to preserve the dissected frogs in 7th grade science lab is now inside of you. Remember how your middle school science teacher forbade you from touching the frogs without surgical gloves since formaldehyde is a known carcinogen? I don't think he/she would be pleased to hear that you're drinking it either. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen that interferes with DNA replication and can even cause birth defects - which is why I get very sad when I see pregnant women drinking diet soda.

       Formaldehyde can even cause temporary or permanent blindness since it gets oxidized to formic acid, which is highly toxic to the ocular nerves. 
       In defense, Monsanto argues that methanol is in citric fruits. This is true, yet fruits also contain ethanol which halts methanol's toxic actions by competitively inhibiting it from turning into formaldehyde. Aspartame has no such antidote. Monsanto also argues that the fact that aspartame breaks up into the three components so easily is no cause for alarm since all of them are found naturally in food. Again, true, but when aspartic acid and phenylanine occur naturally in food, they are bound to proteins so they're released slowly and safely into digestion and metabolism. There are no protective proteins in aspartame. Methanol, phenylalanine, and aspartic acid are unbound, free, and ready to mess you up. You might as well be shooting them up. 
       Now, that you know aspartame can make you dumb, crazy, blind, and even give you cancer, do you still think it's worth it to drink diet soda? You probably will. Why? Because you think it's going to help you stay skinny. We all willingly ignore potential dangers if we think that we're going to look hot- this explains why the tanning bed business is still thriving. What can I say? We're all shallow. It's a fact of life.
       Here's another fact: aspartame makes you GAIN WEIGHT. Upon ingestion, aspartame is absorbed by the liver and broken down into its 3 components. This metabolic breakdown requires a great deal of energy, so there's less energy left in the liver cells for fat burning and metabolism, causing fat storage. This fat deposition can occur to an extent that results in fatty liver, a condition in which the liver is damaged and it's incredibly hard to lose weight.
What you think you'll look like...
...What you'll actually look like. Womp womp.
       Furthermore, aspartame inhibits synthesis of serotonin, which is needed to blunt carbohydrate cravings, ensuring that you eat an appropriate level of them. Drops in serotonin causes you to overeat carbohydrates, inevitably resulting in weight gain. 
       Aspartame destabilizes your blood sugar levels, which increases your appetite and causes intense food cravings. I always wondered why I ate much more during meals that were paired with Diet Coke. 
       Aspartame also causes fluid retention, which makes your body look bloated and increases cellulite. All of a sudden, diet soda seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it?
       With all of this information, you will probably still reach for a diet soda during your next meal. It's inevitable. Why? It's extremely ADDICTIVE. Methanol acts on the dopamine center of your brain, the same area that hard core drugs act on. 

       "Oh come on Michelle, if aspartame is really this dangerous how come it's allowed to be sold?" Fine, that's a fair argument. Let's look at the sordid history of aspartame's FDA approval. 
       It was discovered in 1965 by accident while a chemist was trying to make an anti-ulcer drug. Its manufacturing company, G.D. Searle (which was later acquired by Monsanto in '85), conducted many studies to prove its safety for FDA approval. In 1976, the FDA found that Searle's studies on aspartame's safety were "poorly conceived, carelessly executed, and inaccurately analyzed or reported"- verbatim from an FDA report. Samuel K. Skinner, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, was appointed the head of a grand jury to investigate whether Searle's studies were falsified to conceal aspartame's toxicity. This investigation never took place as Skinner dropped the case. Shortly after doing so, Skinner left the Justice Department for a very high paying job at Sidley & Austin, the same law firm that represented Searle. Oh my, what a coincidence. I wonder how that happened? 
       The controversy did not stop there. In 1981, Searle was desperately trying to get FDA approval. Searle's then chairman, Donald H. Rumsfeld (who went on to become Bush's secretary of defense), decided to call in his markers to get it approved. That marker being Ronald Reagan. Shortly after Reagan appointed Arthur Hull Hayes as FDA commissioner, Hayes granted approval for aspartame. Barely a year later, Hayes left the FDA for a big consulting job at Searle's PR agency. See the pattern? 
Health Advice from Donald Rumsfeld
       When big money is involved, nothing is sacred. Not even the public's safety. Today, aspartame accounts for over 75% of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA, yet there are curiously no measures taken to investigate its safety. 

       Yes, there are studies that show aspartame is safe, but guess who funds all of those studies? Monsanto. In this case, science does not decide the results of a study, the source of funding does. An analysis of the 166 most recent studies found that the 74 funded by Monsanto all "proved" aspartame's non-toxicity, while 84 of the 92 independent studies found it to be unsafe for consumption.  
       Aspartame is a liquid poison. Monsanto is marketing an addictive, neurotoxic, fat depositing, carcinogen to the public as a sugar-free diet product. After reading this, I hope that you will re-think your drink. I would honestly rather you drink a regular soda. It tastes better and it won't kill you. I'm not giving you free license to drink soda every day, but one can of pop every now and then is much better than diet soda every day. 

Until Next Week,


  1. Thanks for your information, Michelle.
    I’m not used to the taste of diet coke, coke zero nor coke light, kind of sodas, so I seldom have them intake. As a layman to those diet coke ingredients you mentioned, I don’t really understand the harmful chemical reaction inside our body after drinking such sodas, but I see it's a bad thing for people taking substitutes instead of natural sugar!
    For the coming two weeks, I’m going Russia and Ukraine for sightseeing, and see if I can read your articles out there.

    1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this article, Simon! It is very wise of you to avoid diet sodas. The artificial sweeteners are very harmful. Hope that you have the most wonderful time ever in Russia and Ukraine! I visited Russia 7 years ago and had a fantastic time!