I wrote an article not too long ago about the foods we eat that we think are healthy, but are actually causing more harm than good [Eating Healthy? Your Body Doesn’t Think So]. Well, this article has received a ton of attention! There are so many products out there that we just don’t realize what they are made up of, or what their effects on our long term health might be. People are concerned and don’t know where to turn for the truth.
Diet soda is one of these products. Touted as a “healthy” answer to sugar-laden sodas, diet sodas have been marketed to all of those health conscious people who want to do something better for their body. Now it’s beyond me the logic that goes behind drinking a diet-cola and eating a ginormous hamburger and x-large fries, but I guess people think that they are saving calories with their drink, so why not…
If consumers only realized what was actually in these chemically engineered soft drinks, and the harm they were doing to their bodies from drinking them, I’m sure they would think twice.
Due to all of the questions and confusion regarding this ‘substance’ that so many of you put into your bodies every day, I wanted to clear up the fog and go into more detail about why you should find yourself something new to drink. This article is all about the actual composition of soda, and some of the effects of the individual ingredients, while a future article will give even more details of what this means to you and your body as a whole [so stay tuned].
To start off, diet sodas not only have artificial sweeteners, which most of us are at least somewhat aware of their side-effects (see below), but they are also comprised of other chemicals that make up their coloring and their unique flavors, all of which can wreak havoc on our bodies. Here’s why:
1. Artificial Sweeteners: Without going into a novels worth of information (although I kind-of do), the reasons artificial sweeteners are so controversial is not only due to the way they are chemically manufactured, but because of how they are broken down in the body, and the effect these chemical components have on processes of the body, including: “1) the possibility of toxicity from methanol, one of the breakdown products of aspartame; 2) elevations in plasma concentrations of phenylalanine (Phe) and aspartic acid, which could result in increased transport of these amino acids into the brain, altering the brain's neurochemical composition; 3) the possibility of neuroendocrine changes, particularly increased concentrations in the brain, synaptic ganglia and adrenal medulla of catecholamines derived from Phe and its hydroxylation product, tyrosine; and 4) a postulated link with epilepsy and brain tumors.” [For additional information: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/aspartame/l-3/aspartame-1.htm#3p0]
2. Artificial Coloring: The caramel color in cola for example, is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. These chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice and rats. As a result, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA to prohibit the use of this ingredient in foods. (Information courtesy of http://colbydirect.com/clients/truehealthmd/truhealthmd_glossary.pdf)
While some of the other colors in soft drinks may come from extracts of foods and other natural substances, many are artificially created. These man-made coloring agents are cheaper and more effective at adding color when compared to their natural counterparts. However, research has found multiple connections between the use of artificial colors and behavioral problems in children, as well as in teenagers. While artificial colors must be listed in the ingredients list on the Nutrition Facts label, no other type of warning or additional labeling is required in the US. (For more information, here is an additional article: http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/food-dye-adhd).
3. Artificial Flavorings: The other common ingredient in sodas are “flavorings” which are made from chemicals instead of natural sources (in other words, they are NOT derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof). In fact, a single artificial flavoring may actually be a combination of hundreds of individual chemicals, many of which are derived from petroleum.
There have been numerous studies done on the effects of such flavorings, particularly on children, and just as it is with artificial colorings and dyes, behavior disorders and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) seem to be directly linked (http://www.feingold.org/Research/BLUE/Page-06-7-colorsBHT.pdf).
As noted above, there are so many chemicals that make up “diet soda” that it is hard to truly understand what the direct effects of a particular one might be. Furthermore, it has been hard for scientists to come to any firm conclusions on the risks of such chemicals, which is the reason that manufacturers are still allowed to use them.
But think about it, with all the profits that these soda corporations make, and all the money that passes through Congressional hands directly from these manufacturers, do you really think that they are in any rush to ban such ingredients from the market? I would have to say no.
Personally, I really don’t need the FDA to tell me not to put these substances in my body. I just have to read what the composition of these drinks are, and realize that it is not worth jeopardizing my health. Hopefully you will agree.
Stay tuned for our future article which goes into further detail of the overall effects diet soda has on our well-being, as well as our latest review on a beverage that gives traditional soda a true run for its money!