ā†’ā†’The Case Against Diet Soda (And Aspartame… And Splenda.. And….)

The Case Against Diet Soda (And Aspartame… And Splenda.. And….)

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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By | 2017-06-10T11:26:51+00:00 January 28th, 2014|What Are You Eating?|70 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. JoAnna July 15, 2010 at 10:32 AM - Reply

    I don’t drink or eat diet foods. I don’t like the aftertaste. It amazes me how many people try to give me that nasty stuff because I’m diabetic. I tell them I eat plain sugar, honey, and maple syrup. I just eat a lot less of it and make it worth the indulgence.

    I baked some adult devil’s food mini-bundt cakes for a friend and saved one for my doctor this week who swears by that nasty diet chocolate jello mousse. I told him to first have a spoon of his mousse, a sip of water, then have a bite of the cake. After he demolished it, he asked me how I lost as much weight as I did if I could bake like that. Told him “Moderation, my dear doctor. I want to get off these meds, and not exchange them for another daily prescription because the “splenda/equal” chemicals have further upset my hormonal balance.”

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Ain’t happenin’! But you can have a really scrumptious cake ever so often that is worth the wait.

    • Erika July 15, 2010 at 10:35 AM - Reply

      YES!!!!! *does the touchdown dance all across my loft*


      (This also furthers my understanding of how little doctors know about nutrition, but that’s a rant I will never be posting on this site, LOL.)

    • Erika July 15, 2010 at 10:37 AM - Reply

      This is so freaking beautiful that I have to save it for another post.

      “It amazes me how many people try to give me that nasty stuff because Iā€™m diabetic. I tell them I eat plain sugar, honey, and maple syrup. I just eat a lot less of it and make it worth the indulgence.

      I love every bit of this. This is the POINT of this site. It took me a whole YEAR to come around to a solid healthy understanding of this. Kudos to you – a comment so nice, I had to respond twice. LOLOL

    • LaShanda Glover February 6, 2011 at 9:57 PM - Reply

      I definitely agree with your points about this “diet” stuff. It took me years to realize that although the diet pop didn’t contain any calories it was not helping my weight loss goals. I finally gave it up after watching an episode of the reality show- “Ruby” she is working on losing weight and her doctors told her to stop drinking diet pop and I gave it up to. I was finally able to lose those “last 10 pounds” and I haven’t looked back!

    • Lee April 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM - Reply

      You better PREACH!

  2. Nathalie July 15, 2010 at 1:39 PM - Reply

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Stevia… I’ve started using more natural sugars as of late and substituted Stevia for my Equal/Splenda addiction. My mother absolutely cannot have sugar even in small amounts as it really just doesn’t agree with her system so Stevia was suggested as an alternative. I haven’t heard nearly the same negative press about it as it’s derived from a plant…

    • Erika July 15, 2010 at 1:44 PM - Reply

      Stay tuned. šŸ™‚

      • FelicityR November 15, 2012 at 12:39 PM - Reply

        I am also looking forward to the answer to this question…

  3. Ty July 15, 2010 at 2:57 PM - Reply

    Look deeper into this. Some high people in high places pushed this. Aspartame hinders the ability to think clearly. Pilots aren’t allowed to drink it for that reason. Look at flouride also. It’s been proven to lower the IQ in children. It does nothing for teeth.

    • Erika July 15, 2010 at 3:23 PM - Reply

      So many questions I want to ask, but looking at your e-mail address, lol…

      That sounds like something worth digging into. Thanks for dropping the hint. šŸ™‚

    • 313QT January 6, 2011 at 1:25 PM - Reply

      so true about the flouride! check out the movie “The Beautiful Truth” on you tube! it will open your eyes asap about this food industry and how they mass produce food like its a ford plant! After this I went through all of my cabinets and the fridge and was so amazed how all these cancer man made products (hence MAN MADE) are killing us and they know it! I bagged all thaqt crap up and took it right back to Meijers, got my money back and bought all healthy stuff! it took me about 3hrs to grocery shop that day b/c I had my notes of what to look for so reading and shopping for better items took awhile!

      so basically id I cant kill it, grow it, or preserve it I do not eat it! Nor if I cant pronounce the ingredients! As for the floruide in water I am about topurchase me a big berky water system. this thing even cleans and purifies swamp water and is used when natural disasters strike! Flouride does harmful things to the brain! that why Hitler used flouride for control of the people in Germany! to dumb them down and have no emoitons so that they wouldnt give a hoot about what he was doing to them!

      Sorry for the long post but Im just so passionate about this and my health!

  4. Rita July 15, 2010 at 6:47 PM - Reply

    Through this site I was introduced to clean eating and since I wanted to know what I was getting into I did my research. After days of articles, blogs and videos I read a lot of the stuff you mention in your article. Let me just say, knowledge is power! I stay way from the stuff and will now even eliminate my consumption of table sugar…no more sweet tea!!!

    The best piece of advice I’ve read to date “if you didn’t make it, why eat it”. Guess that should apply to beverages too.

    Thanks Erika for another great entry.

  5. Rhemma July 15, 2010 at 7:30 PM - Reply

    Thanks for this! I’ve heard some about aspartame and convinced my mom to stop drinking diet pops and she already sees the difference!

  6. Ladi Ohm July 15, 2010 at 10:37 PM - Reply

    I was a certifiable splenda addict, and I cut it out of my diet about a month ago. Its been pretty difficult since I love coffee and tea, but I’ve started drinking my coffee black because I’ve recently adopted a ‘if I can pronounce the ingredients, I can’t eat it’ philosophy…. welp, that goes for flavored coffee creamer too. I do put a little honey in nightly cup of tea, though.

  7. Tara Woodruff July 16, 2010 at 12:28 AM - Reply

    Oh how do I love that you wrote this entry! FANTASTIC! I just recently quit aspartame a few months ago and am soo happy I did!
    KEEP your wisdom coming!

  8. Queen B July 17, 2010 at 6:44 PM - Reply

    This was very informative. All thru HS I would drink diet soda to maintain my weight (which now looking back was body image issues)and all my black friends would look at me like I was nuts. Then I started getting migraines, crazy cravings and felt tired all the time. So I started drinking water to see if my diet was the reason for my ailments and eventually narrowed it down to the diet soda. Most recently I realized these toxins are also in crystal lite-like water flavorers–I use to drink these all the time! We really have to scrutinize what we consume.

  9. Queen B July 17, 2010 at 6:47 PM - Reply

    I also agree water is the best form of hydration. Every once of our body benefits from water.

  10. Zuly August 4, 2010 at 4:15 PM - Reply

    Wow. I’ve never been to this site before but someone on my timeline RT it on Twitter and I had to come look. After reading this post, I think I love you!!!! I’ve been saying these things for so long, I’m happy I’m not the only one. Great job.

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