Stop Being Sweet

Is Diet Coke Killing You?

Diet Soda Scream

Kellyanne Conway tweeted a link to an article titled, “Diet Coke is not killing you.”

Well, yay.
Diet Coke is not killing you | The Outline. Hat tip: @axios

— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) January 11, 2017

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Whenever public figures weigh in on matters like this, I pay attention. Don’t you?

Famous people have a big influence on us. As a result, it is important to consider and analyze what we are being sold or told.

Diet Coke is not killing you was written by Yvette d’Entremont, the SciBabe. According to Wikipedia, Yvette is dedicated to “clearing up misinformation about science, food and nutrition.” Again, here’s a link to the article, which argues that Diet Coke isn’t as bad as you think. SciBabe’s debunking points are in bold below.

“Let’s have a look at the most common claims about Diet Coke’s toxicity and then decide if you can safely drink one with a 3,000-calorie mega meal.”

SciBabe’s snarkiness set up her article to be farcical. We know you can drink one Diet Coke with a 3,000-calorie mega meal and not die. We know a Diet Coke here and there won’t kill you. The problem is that people drink multiple Diet Cokes daily over long periods of time—sometimes years—with high-calorie mega meals.


People have reported anecdotally upon giving up diet soda that “naturally” sweet things like fruit taste sweeter to them, but that’s exactly how far the evidence goes; an anecdote. No such study exists to prove this.

After I went sugar-free, naturally sweet foods tasted sweeter to me. SciBabe cites the “nocebo effect” as the reason. Nocebo is when a negative expectation of something causes it to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would have. In other words, it’s all in your head. Thing is, I didn’t have any such expectation about my taste buds. The comparison from always eating sugary junk to only sometimes eating them made the sweet stuff stand out. What’s so bad about that?

It may not be dissimilar from how if a pool’s water is 65-degrees and feels too cold to jump in, you can run through the 50-degree water from the lawn sprinkler first. The sprinkler’s water will feel freezing cold and the pool will feel warm in comparison. The pool water hasn’t changed but your perception of it has.

If you stop eating tons of sweets and start eating natural foods, fruit will seem very sweet—because it is—especially when compared to broccoli, for example.


No link has ever been established between aspartame and cancer.

To say no link between aspartame and cancer has ever been established is simplified and misleading. There is quite a controversy surrounding aspartame. Some studies say there are dangers. Others debunk the dangers. When the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released a report linking aspartame to cancer back in 2012, NPR was set to run the story. However, the senior vice president of communications at Brigham and Women’s Hospital contacted NPR at the last minute and killed the story, claiming the evidence was weak. He reported the risk as being “still in the gray area.” Ultimately the FDA approves of aspartame.


There still isn’t any proof that any of these cases [of depression] are tied into beverage consumption.

SciBabe ignores previous studies showing that drinking sweetened beverages is associated with a higher prevalence of depression. Instead she denounced a 2013 study conducted by Dr. Honglei Chen of the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences. Chen acknowledged that his study did not prove cause and effect—meaning depressed people might drink more soda as opposed to soda causing their depression. Causality aside, a link has been established.


Pour Diet Coke on an old rusty fender. Wait a little while. Do a light brush off, and bam, fender is just like new! Diet Coke is almost certainly doing bad things to your internal organs then, right? Let’s reverse that argument. Anti-freeze will poison you if you drink it. Symptoms include convulsions, low blood pressure, blood in urine, blindness, coma, and possibly death. If anti-freeze can do all of that to you, imagine what it’s doing to your car! You’re not a car. This argument is fucking stupid.

Indeed. Reversing the argument might look more like washing your hair with gasoline or pouring shampoo into your car’s gas tank.


...when you drink a Diet Coke, even if you have it daily, it’s not in your mouth 24/7. If you’re drinking one of the common serving sizes, a 12-ounce can or a 20-ounce bottle, it’s probably only actually touching your teeth for a few minutes at most.

SciBabe is arguing that the acid in Diet Coke isn’t in your mouth for very long. However, scroll to the bottom of the article and there’s a note saying, “This piece has been updated to reflect the fact that any acidic drink, Diet Coke or otherwise, will contribute to oral decay.”


A petri dish is good for some things, but replicating real-world dietary conditions is not one of them.

True. It’s very difficult to account for the individual’s fitness levels, metabolism, drinking frequency and quantity. However, diabetes rises with daily soda consumption (including diet soda) but that same study showed consumption of diet beverages was not linked to higher rates of diabetes. That said, drinking diet soda increases calorie intake overall, which can be a huge problem.

Diets are complicated, and people without proper training in nutrition are bad at preening an appropriate scientific understanding of one component of a diet and its relation to your overall health, metabolism, and insulin from a few articles alone.

Likewise, people are complicated. Even folks with nutrition or science training have a difficult time giving dietary advice to a wide variety of people via a single article.


It goes without saying (but I’m saying it): You should mainly be drinking water… moderation is the key ... not because Diet Coke is terrible for you but because water itself is pretty damn good for you.

Water is so damn good for us we could drink it exclusively. Diet Coke, not so much.

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Comments 3



The major problem is that diet soda and many other diet drinks and foods use sweeteners like aspartame and Sucralose, which are between 300 and 600 times sweeter than sugar. Your brain gets the message that hundreds of calories of food is coming, and when it doesn’t get the real food, then cravings set in. I used to have a setious diet coke problem, drink 3-5 a day. In part for the caffeine.  When I stopped the diet cokes my cravings dropped dramatically.
I now stick to water, tea, coffee. In the summer I will sometimes make lemonade using stevia.



They always advocate as if people drink one coke once in a while but they know people get attached to the stuff.

wombat of political rage


I mean, Nan - I have the opposite feeling - I drank about the same amount of diet coke as you, but I often find things too sweet to the point of unpleasantness - I definitely didn’t feel cravings for sweet things (well, I am interested in chocolate occasionally, but I crave that occasionally regardless of what i’m drinking - like, I was super-excited to find a milk that had a bunch of the sugar removed as I found it tasted way better to me that way) and while I’ve recently shifted to iced tea, I drink it unsweetened and don’t care for it with sugar. So…I don’t know. I didn’t feel like I wanted sugary things more with diet coke - it seemed to be filling that niche for me.

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