Drink in moderation: Poison popular

Published January 18, 2012, in MSUM’s, The Advocate

Diet Coke. Oh, the implications it makes.

Diet Coke is a societal staple. As I sat in class the other day, my eyes glanced over at a girl younger than my brittle 21 years, popping open the substitution for the “really-bad-for-you” kind of pop only youngsters and men drink these days. Only the ignorant still drink non-diet soda (notice how I’m intermingling the words “soda” and “pop” so as to satisfy everyone with their stance on the true name of soda pop). Don’t they realize how much SUGAR is in a can of pop? They must not care about their figure. They must not care about what they’re putting into their bodies. They must not care about their health.

For a few seconds, I imagined my classmate as a 38-year-old mother of three still chugging away at her daily poison. She doesn’t know where she would be without her daily fix of an aspartame-filled beverage. It’s a habit now, and after more than a decade of thinking it made a difference buying the diet version, she’s overweight and doesn’t know how it happened – she blames it on the kids. She doesn’t have time to work out when she has three school-age kids and is sitting in her cubicle 9 to 4:30, Monday through Friday.

For some reason I still haven’t figured out, the populace is determined to believe that anything labeled “diet” has the ability to defy their ingredients and help the human race lower their BMI. It has the word “diet” written on it, so it has to support weight-loss, right? Diet Coke is just one of the more obvious products that has become a cultural phenomena of hypocrisy.

I won’t go off on a tangent preaching the havoc aspartame has on one’s earthly vessel, but let’s heed the research.

In an article titled “Artificially Sweetened Beverages Cause for Concern” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, the article’s author, discusses the rather bitter side of artificially sweetened drinks.

In this article, Ludwig, a Harvard professor and Founding Director of the Optimal Weight for Life clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston, discusses three imperative points.

Your body is getting confused. The regulatory system controlling hunger and body weight gets thrown off by the sweet taste and calorie disunity. Your body then feels the need to raise its intake of calories, so if you were planning on losing weight for swimsuit season by subbing diet drinks for others, think again. That monokini will still expose the muffin top you’ve been trying to lose.

Once again, rodents were used for lab testing (thus reminding me of Pinky and the Brain), and in this test, the ones fed saccharin (fake sweetener) gained more weight than those fed sucrose (real sugar). How devastating.

Secondly, by taking in artificial sweeteners you’re making other foods less enjoyable, in a way. These sugar posers are a hundred times sweeter than regular sucrose, so after becoming so accustomed to substituting, our taste buds soon find naturally sugary foods, such as fruit, dull – not sweet enough for the artificial sweet tooth we replaced our old one with after months of “dieting.” Since healthy foods begin losing their appeal, it will in turn affect our diets negatively.

Though the reason is not understood yet, a link was found by the San Antonio Heart Study between obesity and the consumption of diet beverages. Even amidst such research, the intake of sugar substitutions is growing.

“If trends in consumption continue, the nation will, in effect, have embarked on a massive, uncontrolled and inadvertent public health experiment,” Ludwig said. “Although many synthetic chemicals have been added to the food supply in recent years, artificial sweeteners in beverages stand out in their ability to interact with evolutionarily ancient sensorineural pathways at remarkably high affinity.”

Leave it to a doctor to make it sound more confusing than it really is. In other words, though almost every other part of our food supply has been affected by genetically modified nastiness, artificial sweeteners in our buyable liquids go above and beyond in their ability to affect our brain chemistry.

Have I mentioned I love the taste of a nice, cold Diet Coke every so often? All this talk is making me thirsty, and it’s tempting to be hypocritical. Slap me now. There should be a warning label: “Drink in moderation.” Any kind of pop should be a treat, not a habit.



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