If you like reading health related articles, you've probably seen stuff like this very often:
Diet soda worse than regular
Aspartame causes cancer
It's easy though to make your own website and write anything you want on it. How can we verify what's true and what's not?
In lots of cases the answer is really difficult, but in this one we're very lucky.
To prove how something influences our health, people use the following two methods - both, if possible, one, it it's not:
1. Preclinical research - performed in labs using cell cultures or animals - to obtain a bio-chemical proof - how something influences a living organism or some specific tissue - for example we can describe acid-base reactions of amide hydrolysis to show how strong acids destroy human skin or demonstrate blocking oxidative phosphorylation by potassium cyanide to prove that digestion of it might cause death. It's a relatively simple method and gives fast results.
2. Clinical trials - testing stuff on people. If you assume something is unhealthy or even lethal, of course you're not going to administer it to people though. You are going to do case studies. You will try to find as many cases as possible - the more the better. This method requires a lot of time and... common sense.
Let's say we are researching influence of smoking tobacco. If we perform our case studies only in one country or one specific group of people, the results can be biased from countless possible factors: genes, diet, climate etc. Probably there is a village where all 90 year olds smoke - if we base our research on that place only, we can not only learn that smoking is not bad, but that it even extends life span.
To do our research reliable, we would have to include in our study as much variety as possible.
Where am I getting with that? More and more often I get to read about a research that says drinking diet soda increases your chances of obesity. That study is based on research... let's check what kind of research it is though.
The top research according to Doctor Google was at a pretty reliable site, time.com (http://time.com/3746047/diet-soda-bad-belly-fat/) and it links to even more reliable source, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society .
Let's quote The Time:
A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that people who drank diet soda gained almost triple the abdominal fat over nine years as those who didn’t drink diet soda. The study analyzed data from 749 people ages 65 and older who were asked, every couple of years, how many cans of soda they drank a day, and how many of those sodas were diet or regular.
(...). People who didn’t drink diet soda gained about 0.8 in. around their waists over the study period, but people who drank diet soda daily gained 3.2 in.
What do we know here? The number of 749 seems impressive, but when I found the study details, it turned out it was performed in just one town - one city - San Antonio, Texas.
Doesn't it resemble the village where all 90 year olds smoke?
I'm going to quote one more paragraph:
"These results, which the study authors call 'striking,' add to the growing body of evidence that no- and low-calorie sweeteners may come with health concerns. Though scientists are still puzzling through the mechanisms by which diet soda seems to have the unintended consequence of weight gain, they have some ideas."
First of all, this is not the language or real science! "Evidence that (something) MAY COME WITH (something)? Anything MAY happen. If there is an evidence for something, it means it DOES, not MAY, happen.
Most of people over 65 years old are concerned with their health and care for it. Some don't. It seems very logical that people who avoid diet soda, also avoid regular soda and other questionable beverages/foods, too, as they read magazines which (in most) say that diet soda is bad for you. And most of those who drink diet soda are just not really concerned with what they eat and drink at all, and consume lots of high calorie food and alcohol (which both are dirt cheap in the USA).
If we look at the issue from a really scientific point of view, we have to conclude that there is no way diet soda can add inches to your belly, as science knows very well the inches can come only from fat. And where does fat come from? Fat can be eaten. Fat can be produced in our body from carbohydrates or proteins. If you gained any fat from diet coke, which is close to 100% water and has only180mg of aspartame per can - even you had 50 cans a days - that would be nothing short of a miracle.
Many people also say after drinking some of diet sodas, their appetite increases. If it really happens and if people eat more - we can tell where the extra inches came from - but it's not the diet soda caused it! Or at least not more that a TV commercial that made us buy a takeout. I have experienced a sudden rush of appetite after having something with artificial sweeteners, but it goes away fast or can be "cheated" with a glass of water or a piece of a carrot.
Here I am describing only one case study, but I have looked at many more, and they always looked less reliable than the one I described. I'll be open to hear from you if you happen to find anything better - please let me know and within a few days I'll revise this text.
Ok, what about preclinical research? Is that any about aspartame, sucralose or any other sweeteners?
Short answer - there are many. Lots of. While I am not trying to say that FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is infallible, they have to perform lots of tests, both preclinical and clinical, and their results get published. Sweeteners were accused of causing lots of diseases and FDA re-tested them many times in many ways. Shortly speaking - they are perfectly safe.
You may have heard something else though. There was one famous studies. In 2007, European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences claimed aspartame caused cancer in rats. And today this study is widely quoted by all sweetener haters, but no one takes some time to have a closer look at that study.
The results of the study were rejected by many agencies, including such serious ones as FDA and EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) because they simply are not reliable at all. The animals were overcrowded, which increased risk of many diseases, including those that might result in cancer. They were relatively old, which increases risk of cancer. And, most of all, the quantities of aspartame they were given surpasses regular a couple hundredfold!
Thus, a research that unreliable that should be graded with an F even in a middle school gets quoted all over the Internet today! I wouldn't be surprised is it turned out the research was funded by a sugar manufacturer or something in this sort.
You need to understand that close to 100% of what you read in the Internet is fake. It is written for the purpose of drawing people and clicking - which generates profit.
Thus you may read aspartame was first created as a rat poison. That it's the most toxic substance in grocery stores. That there is a huge conspiracy where sweeteners manufacturers paid billions to FDA and other food agencies to let them make money on poisoning us. That aspartame causes blindness, lupus, memory loss, birth defects. That some sweeteners are metabolized to methyl alcohol which is a deadly poison.
(The last statement, by the way, is true - methanol is a poison, and is produced from aspartame in our body - but a cup of tomato juice produces 4-6 times of it more than a can of diet soda).
The conclusion? There is no reliable data that would let us say the sweeteners are any risk factors for us. Today so many people are paranoid about them, that we can absolutely sure we would have countless real research results showing us all the danger.
We don't see any because there isn't any.
But should you use them? They seem to be best option if you want to have something sweet but avoid sugar or carbs in general, but isn't it better to stick to water or unsweetened tea/coffee ? No one can answer this better than you. Listen to your body - if you can learn to drink unsweetened drinks, why not? If you like them sweet and feel great having diet soda, why not? If you get uncontrolled apetite after diet soda and you don't want it, quit! If you don't care about eating more and have no problems with your weight, why not eat?
What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger - and sweeteners won't kill you for sure!
The above article is full of facts but I did not give a lot of references and sources. Of course I do not require blind faith in me from anyone. It was not a scientific article - you can find plenty of these in the Internet - and if your mind is set to see sweeteners as a poison, no amount of references can change it. However I did not make any of it in my mind, nor didn't I look for information in unreliable places. If you are interested in any information I gave, please let me know below, and I will find the source.
First published: 2016-03-10
Last edited: 2016-03-10