The interesting thing about reading the responses to The Case Against Soft Drinks, was the number of people who admitted “Well, I don’t drink that mess… I drink diet soda!”

And just then, the record (or CD …or MP3) skipped.

I get it. People who believe that the primary concern is calories… will drink a diet pop because the calorie count is low. (In fact, in some cases, it’s literally zero calories.) But clean eaters know better. Clean eaters know a few things about this mentality:

First, if you’re going to enjoy a zero calorie drink, it had better be water.

Secondly, a drink that has color and sweet sugary taste, but zero calories? That’s a highly processed product. No bueno.

Next, if it has no vitamins or minerals in it, it’s not worth my time ingesting it. Getting the most bang for our nutritional buck, here.

Lastly, if it has high fruc–

Uh, not so fast, Erika! Diet soft drinks don’t have high fructose corn syrup in them!

No, you’re absolutely right. It doesn’t have HFCS in it. It has aspartame in it. Ooooh, that’s so much better.

I’m not even going to go in on this. Someone already did:

“When aspartame was put before the FDA for approval, it was denied eight times. G.D. Searle, founder of aspartame, tried to get FDA approval in 1973. Clearly, he wasn’t bothered by reports from neuroscientist Dr. John Olney and researcher Ann Reynolds (hired by Searle himself) that aspartame was dangerous. Dr. Martha Freeman, a scientist from the FDA division of Metabolic and Endocrine Drug Products, declared, “The information submitted for review is inadequate to permit a scientific evaluation of clinical safety.” Freeman recommended that until the safety of aspartame was proven, marketing the product should not be permitted. Alas, her recommendations were ignored. Somehow, in 1974, Searle got approval to use aspartame in dry foods. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. In 1975, the FDA put together a task force to review Searle’s testing methods. Task force team leader Phillip Brodsky said he “had never seen anything as bad as Searle’s testing” and called the test’s results “manipulated.” Before aspartame actually made it into dry foods, Olney and attorney and consumer advocate Jim Turner filed objections against the approval.

“In 1977, the FDA asked the U.S. attorney’s office to start grand jury proceedings against Searle for “knowingly misrepresenting findings and concealing material facts and making false statements in aspartame safety tests.” Shortly after, the U.S. attorney leading the investigation against Searle was offered a job by the law firm that was representing Searle. Later that same year, he resigned as U.S. attorney and withdrew from the case, delaying the grand jury’s investigation. This caused the statute of limitations on the charges to run out, and the investigation was dropped. And he accepted the job with Searle’s law firm. Stunning.

“In 1980, a review by the Public Board of Inquiry set up by the FDA determined that aspartame should not be approved. The board said it had not been presented with proof of reasonable certainty that aspartame is safe for use as a food additive.” In 1981, new FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes was appointed. Despite the fact that three out of six scientists advised against approval, Hayes decided to overrule the scientific review panel and allow aspartame into limited dry goods. In 1983, he got it approved for beverages, even though the National Soft Drink Association urged the FDA to delay approval until further testing could be done. That same year, Hayes left the FDA amid charges of impropriety. The Internal Department of Health and Human services was investigating Hayes for accepting gratuities from FDA-regulated companies. He went to work as a consultant for Searle’s public relations firm. Interesting. The FDA finally urged Congress to prosecute Searle for giving the government false or incomplete test results on aspartame. However, the two government attorneys assigned to the case decided not to prosecute. Later, they went to work for the law firm that represented Searle. Fascinating. Despite recognizing ninety-two different symptoms that result from ingesting aspartame, the FDA approved it for use, without restriction in 1996. Brilliant.

[…]

“Nutrasweet and Equal contain aspartame. When ingested, one of aspartame’s ingredients, methyl alcohol, converts into formaldehyde, a deadly neurotoxin. In addition to aspartame, Equal contains the amino acid phenylalanine. Phenylalanine occurs naturally in the brain. But high levels can increase the chance of seizures and lead to depression and schizophrenia. There is no lesser of the two evils. NutraSweet and Equal are both evil. Sweet and Low is no saint, either. It is an artificial sweetener that contains saccharin, a coal-tar compound.” [source]

I’m going to focus on three major issues, here.

For starters, this should lay to rest that philosophy of “If it were so bad for you, then the FDA wouldn’t have approved it.” The amount of trust we give our government officials would make sense if those positions weren’t held by people with their own humanity to contend with. Look at the instances of people who were bought off, paid off, pushed aside, ignored all to get this product approved.

Secondly, I’m a huge advocate of knowing what you’re eating – both the positive and negative information – before you eat it. If you didn’t know all of this about aspartame before you decided to make it a staple in your diet, is it time to reassess whether or not it belongs in your diet?

Thirdly, this is the issue with processed foods. They make use of chemicals used for other purposes in nature in order to create flavors and tastes in a fashion that would be much more costly if the actual foods themselves were used to make the product! You are introducing chemicals into your system… period.

“[Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener made by joining two amino acids with an alcohol. It is approximately 180 times sweeter than sugar.] Some researchers claim to have linked aspartame to brain tumors and lymphoma, but the FDA insists that the sweetener is safe for humans. A list of complaints submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services includes headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, memory loss and mood changes. The Center for Science in the Public Interest states that children should avoid drinks sweetened with aspartame.” [source]

Think about it – a chemical was created to cause the brain to react to it in the same way as sugar. Many people – many people – claim they experience withdrawals when they take a break from products containing aspartame. The only other instance I can think of where a person is willfully introducing a mind-altering chemical into their system… definitely causes withdrawal symptoms when people break from it. I’m sure you’re familiar with heroin… cocaine… meth… I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

And since I’m ticking everyone off? Let’s talk about Splenda.

Knowing what we know about the 40-some-odd years of aspartame’s existence, splenda (made of sucralose), has an equally young past. One more quote:

Because we’re having so much fun, lets bash the shit out of Splenda, one of the newer sweeteners. Splenda is made by chlorinated sugar, changing its molecular structure. The finished product is called sucralose. The makers of this poison tout its lack of calories and claim it’s safe for diabetics. The FDA calls sucralose 98 percent pure. The other 2 percent contains small amounts of heavy metals, methanol, and arsenic. Well gee, at least it doesn’t have any calories. So what if it has a little arsenic? Sucralose has been found to cause diarrhea; organ, genetic, immune system, and reproductive damage; swelling of the liver and kidneys: and a decrease in fetal body weight. What a splendid product! [source]

Really, I’m over it. All those little diet dishes that are “sweet” thanks to this stuff? I’m over those, too. I have a family history of cancer… what do I look like putting known cancer-causing agents (also known as carcinogens) in my body? No thanks.

These sweeteners are not food. They are chemicals meant to trick your body into thinking they are something they aren’t. I don’t know how many different times, in how many different ways I can say this, but it goes as follows:

I don’t care how many miles you run each day, how many pounds of weight you lift or how chiseled your muscles are. You cannot live a fully healthy life if you ingest chemicals to survive. You are cheating your insides – screw what you look like on the outside – if you don’t care for them as much as you care for your abs, your booty, your legs or whatever else you adore. Period.

Believe it or not, I don’t share this stuff with the intention of telling anyone to give it up. We all (hopefully) have reasons for making the decisions we make. My point in sharing this information is so that we can, again, make educated decisions about the food choices we make. Clean eating is simple. Easy. The foods are of the Earth, I’m of the Earth, this is a win. When we introduce outside substances to our diet, our bodies deserve the twenty minutes it might take to hit up your favorite wellness-promoting website and do a search. It’s seriously not that hard.

I will say this, though: I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that says “those who know better, constantly strive to do better.” Just a thought.

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