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March 18, 2009 posted by

Is Aspartame Safe?

My colleague Denis was just doing some research on Aspartame and came back with “it appears to be pretty safe.” Here’s my opinion:

While they are “safe” perhaps, from the FDA point of view, something in diet soft drinks is leading to obesity and illness. The rates are worse than those on regular soda. We’ll see how this shakes out. My guess is that these artificial sweeteners are going to end up shouldering a lot of the blame. This, however, is hard to show in this type of article because there’s a lot of “safe science” out there and a a lot of money behind it making sure it trumps the negative research, which is sounding more and more like Phillip Morris’ tobacco research each year. But when you now have huge, cross cultural, long term studies all pointing to the exact same direction, something in diet soda is likely worse than the hypothesis of “it probably makes you crave other sweet foods”. I, for one, have had a client who contradicted this. So even though the evidence is now pretty clear, the question still remains as to which is the evil ingredient, or is it the combination.

More on this topic here,

and here.


  • For what it’s worth, one of my mentors, a guy who who reads The Feynman Lectures on Physics on the crapper, and wasn’t satisfied with his PhD in biochemistry from Stanford, so became an anaesthesiologist, has performed some sort of atomic assay on Splenda, and has declared it benign, thus justifying his addiction to diet soda. He swills Pepsi One by the bucket. He out-climbs men a third of his age on the road bike.Following my mentor’s lead, I've taken to hitting the sauce again. This after years of irritating friends and family with sanctimonious clucking whenever they reefed on a Coke or Pepsi can tab. I’d cite medical journals, and spout the punditry of Edwards and Faye, for added emphasis.So here’s what I’ve noticed: Pepsi One is wonderfully piquant with peanut m&m’s, but heinously overbearing with tofu/spinach/chard stir fry. Engagingly provocative with a Hungry Man dinner (Salisbury Steak), but it hits a definite klinker with fresh wild salmon.Ever read Proust without smoking a Gauloise? Try eating Kettle Chips without a cold bubbling brown chaser. Ice-cold carbonated beverages cut through the fug of overly sweet and salty foods, makin’ ‘em fun to eat. I find myself seeking out food that’s compatible with the Pepsi. I swear there’s nicotine in there. I can’t quit the stuff.

  • I know a guy that drank diet sodas and when he stopped drinking them, his vision improved. Odd coincidence, I don’t know.

  • After running an article on this topic in our newsletter a couple of years back I was inundated with email from people who’d given up diet soda and have all sorts of profround changes.Brad, I think it’s one of those “exercise enough” equations. If you train hard enough your body learns to burn almost anything. Hell, I live on the principle myself a lot.

  • Right.The point I failed to make in my frenetic first post (blame it on overcaffeination): Whether Splenda is safe to consume doesn’t really matter. Since picking up Pepsi One, my diet’s taken a dive. I’m not gaining weight, because my burn rate is on par with my overall intake (although my body fat has likely increased). All I know is that I crave the stuff. It seems to taste best when combined with low-quality calories. To maximize the flavor of the soda – and that refreshing taste – I sacrifice the quality of my food. The tail (diet pep) is wagging the dog (diet).Same doesn’t hold true with non-diet cola, which is revoltingly sweet, and thus doesn’t dance so well with food. Or non-food. At least, not for me.I agree that diet soda’s nasty stuff. But what’s the ingredient that’s got me hooked?

  • I gotta clear this up. I didn’t say categorically that I thought it was safe. I was working on an article for the Beachbody Newsletter and all the current studies indicated that the stuff was safe. That doesn’t mean I think it’s good or that I’d recommend it. What it means is that I couldn’t slag it in an article because I wouldn’t have official research to back up the attack. Big difference.

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