Category Archives: diet soda

Diet Pepsi now free of aspartame, but don’t get too excited yet …

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 1.11.43 PMIt’s always excited to see food and beverage manufacturers responding positively to consumer sentiment. As we become more educated and aware and make our voices heard through decreased sales, we see manufacturers changing their ingredients in an attempt to get back into our good graces. That’s all positive and rightfully deserves our attention. Pepsi is the latest manufacturer to listen to consumers. FoodFacts.com, however, needs ask a few significant questions. Just how much have they listened? Was it enough?

Spurred by falling sales and consumer safety concerns, PepsiCo North America Beverages announced on Friday that an aspartame-free Diet Pepsi — sweetened with sucralose and ace-K — will hit shelves some time in August. Pepsi executives say the new Diet Pepsi sweetener formulation tastes the same as the old one.

Large lettering on the new Diet Pepsi cans and packaging will shout: “Now Aspartame Free.”
For many consumers — who fear aspartame’s side effects — and for PepsiCo, which has seen Diet Pepsi sales tumble over the past several years, the change can’t come soon enough. Last year, Diet Pepsi volume was down -5.2% and Diet Coke volume was down -6.6% in the U.S., reports Beverage Digest, the industry trade publication.

PepsiCo has spent years trying to develop a new Diet Pepsi sweetener that would placate consumer concerns but still appeal to consumer tastes. The move would seem to put pressure on arch-rival Coke, which also has seen Diet Coke sales slump, to make a similar move.

“To Diet Pepsi consumers, removing aspartame is their No. 1 one concern,” says Seth Kaufman, senior vice president of Pepsi and flavors. “We’re listening to consumers. It’s what they want.”
Pepsi could no longer afford to sit back and simply watch its Diet Pepsi sales keep falling.
“This is an aggressive move by Pepsi. It has the potential of helping Pepsi recruit new and lapsed users for Diet Pepsi,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. But the move also has some risk, he says. It could confuse some loyal Diet Pepsi users, though it is the sweetener blend that’s changing, not the flavor formula.”

The change applies to all versions of Diet Pepsi, such as Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi sold in the U.S. Diet Pepsi was introduced in 1964, with saccharin as its sweetener. It was reformulated with aspartame in 1983, and then switched to a blend of aspartame and ace-K in 2013.

While critics of aspartame say they are pleased with the move, one critic says that the new sweetener still has a problem: ace-K.

“Diet Pepsi will still contain acesulfame-potassium (ace-K). Consumers should avoid that sweetener as well,” warns Michael Jacobson, director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “It is poorly tested, but the tests done by the manufacturer in the 1970s suggest that ace-K, too, might pose a cancer risk.”

Pepsi officials strongly deny that. “Decades of studies have shown that the sweeteners we use are safe,” says spokeswoman Elisa Baker.

For that matter, Kaufman insists it is changing consumer preferences — not a safety issue — that led PepsiCo to make the change: “Decades of studies have shown that aspartame is safe. This is not about safety.”

But Jacobson says scientific studies have shown a link between aspartame and cancer. “Three top-quality studies have found that aspartame causes cancer in animals, so the less that people consume the better,” he says.

One medical expert, however, disagrees. “Aspartame’s safety in the quantities the general public consumes has been established as safe many, many times over,” says Rebecca Blake, director of clinical nutrition at New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “The research does not yet support a greater level of safety among the ‘more natural’ sweeteners.”

For the moment, PepsiCo says it has no plans to replace aspartame in other diet beverages, including Diet Mountain Dew, which also has seen a sales decline.

Jacobson, the consumer advocate, says the best thing is probably to avoid most colas altogether. “My best advice is to refresh yourself with water, seltzer water, or flavored waters.”

While it’s encouraging to see Pepsi respond to consumer sentiment, the company seems to have missed the idea that ace-K is another concern for consumers. In an attempt to make Diet Pepsi “less bad,” they appear to want to pacify customers by the removal of one controversial artificial sweetener while ignoring the other.

Of course, soda is still soda — changing up the sweeteners won’t do much for the remainder of the chemicals in the concoction. While we appreciate the effort of any manufacturer trying to improve their products in response to the voices of their consumers, Diet Pepsi is soda and soda isn’t good for anyone. And ace-K is still a problem. Nice try, though.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/04/24/pepsi-diet-pepsi-pepsico-aspartame-aspartame-free-beverages-soft-drinks/26297755/

The counterintuitive effect of diet soda: belly fat

article-0-0EE9B85F00000578-823_634x425There are people out there who know that soda is bad for them. They love it though. They reason that if they aren’t drinking soda every day or limiting their consumption to one can each day, they’re limiting the harmful effects that are associated with it. Even better, they think, if they’re only drinking diet soda. After all, it’s a diet product. It contains less sugar and no calories. If there aren’t any calories in diet soda, it can’t be associated with obesity the way that sugary drinks have been.

FoodFacts.com would agree that this is a seemingly logical thought process. We have to remind ourselves, though, that we’re applying a seemingly logical thought process to a chemical concoction with zero nutritional benefits. Logic may, as they say, fly right out the window. There’s a study out that seems to open that window up for all of us.

Researchers examined data taken periodically for nearly 10 years from 749 Mexican-Americans and European-Americans ages 65 and older in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (known by the fine acronym SALSA).

They determined that daily and occasional diet soda drinkers gained nearly three times as much belly fat as non-drinkers, after they ruled out other factors such as age, exercise and smoking. The diet soda drinkers added an average of 2.11 centimeters (.83 inches) to their waist circumferences, while the non-drinkers added .77 centimeters (.3 inches). Daily consumers gained a striking 3.04 centimeters (1.19 inches).

Men, European Americans, people with a body mass index greater than 30 and people who did not have diabetes fared the worst.

You don’t want belly fat (visceral fat in technical terms), especially as you reach your later years, when it is associated with greater incidence of mortality, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. High waist circumference is also one component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that also includes high triglycerides, blood pressure and blood glucose.

“This is a more vulnerable population,” Sharon Fowler, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and lead author of the study said in an interview. According to one study, about a fifth of the U.S. population consumed some form of diet drink on any given day in 2009-2010, and 11 percent of those people drank 16 ounces or more.

A couple of caveats here that are worth mentioning: There is considerable debate over the impact of diet soda and artificial sweeteners, with various studies showing conflicting results. (Another Fowler study in 2008 showed significant increases in body mass index among diet soda drinkers.)

This study, because of the way it was designed, could not prove cause and effect; it showed an association between drinking diet soda and increases in waist circumference. Most strangely, the data revealed no relationship between consumption of regular, sugary soda and waist circumference growth, which Fowler acknowledged would have been expected.

In a statement, the American Beverage Association, said that “previous research, including human clinical trials, supports that diet beverages are an effective tool as part of an overall weight management plan. Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of diet beverages – as well as low calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages – in helping to reduce calorie intake.”

The Calorie Control Council, which represents producers of no- and low-calorie foods and beverages, also urged that the study “be treated with caution” due to some limitations. The organization noted that older people tend to lose muscle mass and gain waist circumference as a result of aging and contended that some important information on Mexican-American lifestyles, diet records and family histories were not available to the researchers.

Nevertheless, she said, there are a number of possible explanations for the findings. A psychological one may be that regular diet soda drinkers conclude (as I have) that they are saving calories by not consuming sugary drinks and let themselves go overboard on other foods.

“There can be underestimation of the impact of other foods,” she said. “People can give themselves extra permission to eat. They also can just do bad calorie math.”

Based on other research, she said, the sweeteners and/or the acid in diet soda may have an impact on gut bacteria, the ability to handle sugar from other food and drink or the part of the brain that signals us to stop eating.

With so much uncertain, Fowler said, a safe path is to drink water, milk, 100 percent fruit juice, tea and coffee – perhaps adding a tiny bit of sugar or fruit juice for added sweetness in some.

Personally, most diet soda drinkers we know aren’t drinking it in order to give themselves permission to eat more food. Many don’t like the flavor of sugared sodas. Others feel like the zero calorie count fits into their already existing dietary plan. Most aren’t thinking that a savings of a few hundred calories opens them up to increasing their food consumption. We’re more likely to agree with the acids in diet soda or the artificial sweeteners having an impact on gut bacteria. That makes more sense from our perspective, especially when it comes to the chemical profile of diet soda.

We know sometimes that iced cold, bubbly diet soda would hit the spot. We also know that you can make a better decision in the moment. Iced cold water or iced tea will quench your thirst without chemicals — or belly fat.

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/health/2015/03/30/diet-soda-may-lead-belly-fat-age/70644966/

For older adults, diet soda isn’t “diet” at all

150317093142-largeWe all expect that certain products do certain things. Multi-vitamins, for instance, give us our daily requirements for a variety of necessary vitamins. 2% milk contains 2% milk fat. Olive oil is made from olives, not peanuts. And diet soda is calorie free and will help maintain weight. Unfortunately some things just aren’t what they appear to be.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that increasing diet soda intake is directly linked to greater abdominal obesity in adults 65 years of age and older. Findings raise concerns about the safety of chronic diet soda consumption, which may increase belly fat and contribute to greater risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.

Metabolic syndrome–a combination of risk factors that may lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke–is one of the results of the obesity epidemic. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.9 billion adults were overweight (body mass index [BMI] of 25 or more) in 2014. Of this group, 600 million people fell into the obese range (BMI of 30 or more)–a figure that has more than doubled since 1980.

In an effort to combat obesity, many adults try to reduce sugar intake by turning to nonnutritive or artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose. Previous research shows that in the past 30 years, artificial sweeteners and diet soda intake have increased, yet the prevalence of obesity has also seen a dramatic increase in the same time period. Many of the studies exploring diet soda consumption and cardiometabolic diseases have focused on middle-aged and younger adults.

“Our study seeks to fill the age gap by exploring the adverse health effects of diet soda intake in individuals 65 years of age and older,” explains lead author Sharon Fowler, MPH, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “The burden of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, along with healthcare costs, is great in the ever-increasing senior population.”

The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA) enrolled 749 Mexican- and European-Americans who were aged 65 and older at the start of the study (1992-96). Diet soda intake, waist circumference, height, and weight were measured at study onset, and at three follow-ups in 2000-01, 2001-03, and 2003-04, for a total of 9.4 follow-up years. At the first follow-up there were 474 (79.1%) surviving participants; there were 413 (73.4%) at the second follow-up and 375 (71.0%) at the third follow-up.

Findings indicate that the increase in waist circumference among diet soda drinkers, per follow-up interval, was almost triple that among non-users: 2.11 cm versus 0.77 cm, respectively. After adjustment for multiple potential confounders, interval waist circumference increases were 0.77 cm for non-users, 1.76 cm for occasional users, and 3.04 cm for daily users. This translates to waist circumference increases of 0.80 inches for non-users, 1.83 inches for occasional users, and 3.16 inches for daily users over the total 9.4-year SALSA follow-up period.

“The SALSA study shows that increasing diet soda intake was associated with escalating abdominal obesity, which may increase cardiometabolic risk in older adults,” Fowler concludes. The authors recommend that older individuals who drink diet soda daily, particularly those at high cardiometabolic risk, should try to curb their consumption of artificially sweetened drinks.

FoodFacts.com isn’t surprised by this news, but we know that there are consumers across the country who wouldn’t expect this — and who need to hear it. No matter what age, diet soda consumers are drinking the beverage with their weight in mind. They don’t understand that the product they’re using to help control their weight can be having a completely opposite effect. It’s time to spread this news and explain the facts!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150317093142.htm

The correlation between your brain’s perception of sweetness and carbonation

FoodFacts.com has followed a lot of information that’s come to the forefront about artificial sweeteners and diet soda. We know that artificial sweeteners are chemical concoctions that serve no purpose nutritionally and have been linked to cancer. Interestingly, in the last 12 months, studies have linked drinking diet soda to diabetes and weight gain, negating their original purpose in the food supply.

Today we came across a new study that sheds new light on why artificial sweeteners may be adding to the obesity crisis. Carbonation, an essential component of popular soft drinks, alters the brain’s perception of sweetness and makes it difficult for the brain to determine the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners, according to a new article in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.

“This study proves that the right combination of carbonation and artificial sweeteners can leave the sweet taste of diet drinks indistinguishable from normal drinks,” said study author, Rosario Cuomo, associate professor, gastroenterology, department of clinical medicine and surgery, “Federico II” University, Naples, Italy. “Tricking the brain about the type of sweet could be advantageous to weight loss – it facilitates the consumption of low-calorie drinks because their taste is perceived as pleasant as the sugary, calorie-laden drink.”

The study identifies, however, that there is a downside to this effect; the combination of carbonation and sugar may stimulate increased sugar and food consumption since the brain perceives less sugar intake and energy balance is impaired. This interpretation might better explain the prevalence of eating disorders, metabolic diseases and obesity among diet-soda drinkers.

Investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor changes in regional brain activity in response to naturally or artificially sweetened carbonated beverages. The findings were a result of the integration of information on gastric fullness and on nutrient depletion conveyed to the brain.

Future studies combining analysis of carbonation effect on sweetness detection in taste buds and responses elicited by the carbonated sweetened beverages in the gastrointestinal cavity will be required to further clarify the puzzling link between reduced calorie intake with diet drinks and increased incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases.

FoodFacts.com has never been a fan of soda consumption. Sugary sodas and diet sodas alike are chemical formulations in cans and bottles. They do nothing to fulfill our nutritional requirements and replace better beverages in our diets. The allure of zero calories for consumers is quite powerful and often people believe that as long as something is “diet” it’s a better choice. We are hopeful that information regarding the many downsides of artificial sweeteners helps consumers to understand that these beverages are not healthier options. While we certainly don’t need the equivalent of a little over 10 teaspoons of sugar in the average can of soda, we also don’t need an artificial substance replacing that sugar – especially since it appears that in the long run, people can gain weight just as easily relying on zero calorie sweeteners. Let’s help others in our network become more nutritionally aware of the health effects of diet sodas!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/266292.php

Can your heart suffer from your soda consumption?

Today, FoodFacts.com learned that it very well could … especially if soda is the only liquid you choose to consume every single day for sixteen years.

A woman living in Monaco, near southern France, was taken to a hospital after fainting. She’s 31 years old and a blood test revealed that she had severely low potassium levels. Further testing of her heart’s electrical activity disclosed that she had a condition called long QT syndrome, causing erratic heart beats.

The doctors were perplexed as to why this otherwise healthy woman had heart problems and was fainting. She had no family history of heart difficulties. She didn’t have any hormone problems. Upon questioning her a little further, however, her doctors learned that she had not had any water to drink since the age of 15. Instead she consumed only cola every day – about two liters daily.

After just one week without cola, both the woman’s potassium levels and heart electrical activity returned to normal.

Researchers at the Princess Grace Hospital Center in Monaco went to work searching for similar cases, and surprisingly found six other reports where excessive cola consumption were linked to medical difficulties, including problems with heart rhythm. They noted that drinking too much cola can cause excess water to enter the bowels, leading to diarrhea, which causes a loss of potassium. In addition, high amounts of caffeine consumption can increase urine production and decrease potassium reabsorption. Low levels of potassium can cause problems with heart rhythm.

The researchers stated that cardiologists need to be made aware of the possible connection between cola consumption and potassium loss. Patients discovered to have long QT syndrome should be questioned about their beverage consumption. In addition, they are proposing future studies that will examine whether excessive cola drinkers have lower potassium levels than those who don’t drink cola.

Excessive soda consumption can also lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for heart disease, the researchers said.

The case report was presented at the European Heart Rhythm Association meeting in Athens, Greece. It has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

FoodFacts.com certainly understands that this particular woman’s cola-drinking habit was quite extreme. But it clearly underscores the concept of soda as a generally unhealthy addition to our diet. Soda has certain inherent nutritional problems – most of the ingredients in any given brand aren’t natural, sugary soda contains high fructose corn syrup and plenty of it, diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners that are linked to a variety of different problems and there are a whole host of controversial items routinely included in soda ingredient lists. This story from Monaco seems to add a new problem directly related to soda consumption. While we recognize that most soda drinkers also consume water and other beverages, this story does stop and cause you to think even more carefully about your beverage habits. Nutritional awareness is so important for all of us … and it’s not just about our food choices, it’s about our beverage choices as well.

http://www.livescience.com/37707-excessive-soda-consumption-heart-problems.html

What do soda and crack cocaine have in common … they’re both equally damaging to your teeth

FoodFacts.com knows that everyone in our community is aware that there are no redeeming nutritional qualities in soda. The list of bad ingredients includes things like Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate, Brominated Vegetable Oil, Artificial Food Coloring, High Fructose Corn Syrup – and if it’s diet, Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium. Ingredient lists on soda bottles are a chemical nightmare.

So it didn’t surprise us today to read the results of a new case study in a new issue of General Dentistry that compares dental damage caused by the over-consumption of soda to the damage caused by the use of a variety of illegal drugs.

Dental erosion is the action of acids wearing away tooth enamel, which protects the teeth from the development of cavities as well as cracking and discoloration. Tooth enamel also helps us have attractive smiles because of its gloss and sheen.

The General Dentistry case study compared the damage in three individuals’ mouths — an admitted user of methamphetamine, a previous longtime user of cocaine, and an excessive diet soda drinker. Each participant admitted to having poor oral hygiene and not visiting a dentist on a regular basis. Researchers found the same type and severity of damage from tooth erosion in each participant’s mouth.

“Each person experienced severe tooth erosion caused by the high acid levels present in their ‘drug’ of choice — meth, crack, or soda,” says Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD, lead author of the study.

Sodas generally contain citric acid and commonly, phosphoric acid. Both are known to cause dental erosion. The participant who consumed soda admitted to drinking 2 liters of diet soda daily for three to five years. That’s certainly excessive and the explanation for that participant’s dental erosion to be equal to the participants who had used methamphetamine and crack cocaine – both highly acidic and corrosive.

While the average soda drinker is not consuming 2 liters a day, the results of this study should clearly illustrate the effects of the over consumption of acids – like citric acid and phosphoric acid – on our teeth. It’s harmful. People who do drink soda should consider rinsing their mouth out with water every time they drink it, as it will increase saliva flow in the mouth which will help to return the acidity level in the mouth back to normal.

FoodFacts.com would like everyone to consider this: many years ago, both Coke and Pepsi were used as cleaning agents due to the strength of the acids they contain. If soda was used to clean commercial toilets and the ink-stained floors of printing plants, we can only imagine what they can do to our teeth, not to mention the rest of our bodies.  Just don’t drink it.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130528122505.htm

New York’s proposed ban on super-sized sugary beverages …the right thing to do or government interference? Thoughts from our community, please

Food Facts wants our community to weigh in on this very controversial piece of news. Last month, Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor proposed a ban on the sale of large sized sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban would affect restaurant establishments, movie theaters and street food sellers. Mayor Bloomberg is proposing this ban in order to curb the rising problem of obesity in New York City.

The ban would apply to drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces and range from sodas to energy drinks to sweetened iced teas which would be prohibited from sale in delis, fast-food outlets, sporting venues and even hot-dog and sandwich carts which are common on most New York City street corners. If the proposal is approved, it could go into effect in March of 2013. In New York City, more than half of adults are obese or overweight. And about one-third of New Yorkers drink more than one sugary drink per day. This information comes from the New York City health commissioner. The proposed ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 30 calories per 8-ounce serving, so unsweetened iced teas, diet sodas and flavored or vitamin waters with no calories would not be affected.

According to the mayor, the only thing the ban actually would do is make it less convenient to consume more than 16 ounces of a chosen sugary beverage. After all, a consumer would be free to buy a second one. Because the city does have jurisdiction over local eating establishments they are confident they have the authority to restrict the sales of these beverages.

Since the proposal, other mayors around the country are considering similar actions. Many in the health and nutrition community are supportive of the measure. Many in the New York City community and the government are not.

Here, in our Food Facts community, many are aware of the unhealthy and possibly downright harmful ingredients in soda. But, we’re also pretty aware that those statements don’t just involve sugary sodas and pretty much extend to diet versions, as well. You can check out two examples right here:

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Diet-Soda/Coke-Cola-Diet-Coke-Soda-20-oz/778

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Cola/Coca-Cola-20-fl-oz/44984

We’d like our Food Facts friends to weigh in on this issue. Let us know:

1) Is the ban, and others like it that will undoubtedly follow, an infringement on our basic rights? If the New York City government can ban large sized sugary beverages, what other nutrition-based decisions can they go on to force on adult residents?

2) Is the ban a viable way to attempt to control a growing obesity problem in New York and other cities like it?

3) Does the ban actually not go far enough? If we know that the ingredients in soda are actually harmful to our health and that’s true for both diet and sugar-laden beverages, why aren’t governments trying to control the intake of all kinds of drinks? Aspartame is just as controversial as high-fructose corn syrup and phosphoric acid and potassium benzoate certainly don’t qualify as additives we don’t need to worry about.

It’s a fascinating conversation and one that can be looked at from many points of view. As a member of the Food Facts community, we’d like to hear your stance and reasoning. As educated consumers, your opinions are valuable, not only to us, but to all communities and cities considering ways and means to curtail the growing problems of obesity and poor nutrition becoming more and more prevalent in our country every day.