According to the CDC, obesity affects the lives of 35% of Americans today. With such a large percentage, one may think that being conscious of what you eat, and opting for foods that advertise as being “fat-free” or “low-fat” may be the best way to remain fit and healthy. But in the case of processed foods and drinks, these “low-fat” foods sometimes can be more detrimental to their health than “regular” foods and drinks. One of the main perpetrators of these relatively unknown consequences is diet sodas. With all that information, when opening the fridge at your local convenient store, buying a 0 calorie Coca-Cola may seem like a better idea than buying a 140 calorie Coca-Cola. Not only are you saving the calories, but according to the Coca-Cola product sites, you’re skipping out on consuming 39 grams of sugar, and taking in 5 mg less of sodium. You’re also getting 12 more mg of caffeine, which is great if you need that extra energy boost (Coca-Cola Product Facts). With all those bonuses, opting for the diet Coke seems like the better choice, right? Probably not.
With such vastly different nutritional values, how is Coca-Cola is able to create two products with identical tastes? The answer is by the use of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. By comparing the two product fact sites, I saw that the way diet Coke is able to claim 0 calories while tasting the same is by taking out high fructose corn syrup, and instead adding in the chemicals aspartame, potassium benzoate, and citric acid. According to Mary Squillace, a health blogger, diet sodas actually slow weight loss and cause bloating. But, the more serious issue at hand is that these added chemicals can be very harmful to your overall health. In a study conducted by US National Toxicology Program (NTP), researchers found the effects of one chemical in particular, aspartame, to be detrimental to ones health through an experiment on mice.
In summary of the experiment, starting 12 days after their conception (the chemical was given to pregnant female mice), and continuing until their death, these NTP researchers fed 240 mice food mixtures containing aspartame. Once the mice were born, they were divided into groups based on their sex, and and after the multiple groups were decided, the NTP researchers assigned a dosage of 0, 2,000, 8,000, 16,000, or 32,000 ppm of aspartame in order to measure the effects of a higher or lower dose (NTP). It was after their deaths, though, where the true effects of aspartame could finally be seen.
After each of the 240 mice had died or was euthanized, autopsies were performed on their tissues and organs. After the thorough dissection, the researchers found that the consumption of APM did in fact cause an increase of cancerous tumors in the mice. Researchers also found that in the mice who had higher doses of APM, there was a significant increase if neoplastic lesions in the liver and in the lungs. These lesions and tumors were also stated to be found more frequently in male mice than female mice. The studies conclusion mentioned the possibility that the cancer was not caused directly by the APM itself, but by the chemicals it metabolized into while in the gut. It also mentioned that this could be the reason the male mice were more negatively affected than the female mice.
As someone who has always been warned against the harmful effects of soda, the results found in this study did not shock me. Even though this evidence is based on one study conducted on mice, it is not new news that neither diet nor regular soda is not good for one’s appearance or health. While it is also important to remember that drinking soda here and there will also not be completely detrimental, it can be concluded that over time, the consumption of soda could lead to an increased chance of cancer and other serious consequences.
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