Diet soda is one of the many products that has been exploited in the guise of a healthier option. Lots of people are buying into the myth and buying diet sodas to curb ‘calories’. Unfortunately, that is far from being true. There are lots of researches that have been conducted over the years to expose the ugly truth behind diet sodas. But, lots of money is also being put in by corporate giants to make sure nobody ever discovers the truth.
Healthy Alternative Or A Brutal Lie?
Diet sodas have been hailed as the ‘calorie champion’ for the health-conscious millennials. Big brands have used incredible means of both guerrilla and ‘in-your-face’ advertising to reinforce the idea deep into our psyches. So, everybody in the world now believes that diet soda is an absolute savior. But, that is hardly the truth. Diet soda companies use an artificial sweetener called aspartame, in place of sugar to make diet sodas. Aspartame has been approved by multiple regulatory boards like the FDA, WHO and United Nations Food and Agricultural Association etc. In recent years, lots of studies by independent sources including the Harvard School of Public Health, have been conducted and published, stating the harmful side effects of aspartame. Even the Center for Science in the Public Interest has voiced its opinion against the use of aspartame. Unfortunately, it still remains one of the most widely used sweeteners.
The Reality Of Aspartame
Aspartame is a compound made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Both aspartic acid and phenylalanine are naturally occurring amino acids that are required by our bodies. But, we can ingest excess of it by consuming little too much of aspartame.
Aspartame can have damaging effects on our neurons and can lead them to death. Phenylalanine in excess amount can change the physiology of the brain and depletes serotonin, a hormone that controls our moods. Methanol is produced inside of our bodies, and can be obtained through fruits as well. Naturally occurring methanol in fruits and vegetables are generally strongly bonded to pectin, and it passes through our systems without causing any damage. But, methanol from aspartame is formed from methylalanine, as the methyl is weakly bonded by the methyl ester bond. This methyl ester bond can break easily to form methanol.
This methanol is extremely dangerous, as it travels to various tissues and breaks down Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) to form formaldehyde. Our bodies lack enzymes that can eliminate formaldehyde from our cells. Thus, it can weaken our proteins and DNAs in the long run. Formaldehyde has been linked to various forms of cancer like prostate and breast. Formaldehyde has also been linked to be causing oxidative damage to the brain.
The Big Study
A large scale study spanning over a period of 10 years with 60,000 women (subjects) has been conducted by the University of Iowa. This study was done to find an evident link between aspartame and increased risk of heart diseases. This study was also known as the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, and was headed by Dr. Ankur Vyas. The research found that women who drank more than two cans of diet soda per day were 30% more susceptible to have cardiovascular conditions, and have 50% increased chances of dying of heart related diseases, than women who didn’t consume any soda in a day.
These 59,614 women were divided into four groups; >2 diet sodas per day, 5-7 diet sodas per week, 1-4 diet sodas per week, and 0-3 diet sodas per month. After 9 years, the same women were checked for various heart conditions like heart attack, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease and cardiovascular deaths. The mentioned conditions were found in 8.5% of women belonging to the first group, followed by 6.9% in the second group, 6.8% in the third group and 7.2% in the fourth group.
The results couldn’t find any evident link between aspartame and increased risk of heart conditions. But, the highest group with coronary conditions, is the one in which the women consumed more than two sodas per day. Also, the ages of affected women from this group were found to be lesser than the others. These women also were more affected with high blood pressure, diabetes and above average BMI than others. So, it cannot be denied that diet soda accelerated the process of heart diseases for sure.
There is a need for more research in this area to prove this claim more strongly. Until that happens, it is better to avoid the so-called sugarless drinks for better health and a healthier future.