Thursday, February 14, 2008
diet pop - not so diet after all?
Years ago, in 1973, I went to Weight Watchers and lost down to a socially acceptable weight (about 100 lbs less than I weigh now!). And I seemed to be, for the first time, "easily" keeping it off. My secret? 6-8 cans of "Diet Rite Cola" (remember that brand?) a day. Or sometimes more. And a bedtime snack of whipped carnation non fat milk (1/4 cup) sweetened with --- artificial sweetener of course!
Unfortunately while enjoying my smaller size, I found I was getting some strange symptoms in my eyes. Blurs in the field of vision. Pain in the eyeballs. And lumps in the eye lids.
I went to the eye doctor and he wasn't much help. "You have lumps in your eyelids!" he announced, being champion of the obvious.
So I reaccessed what I was doing and "a lot of diet pop" came up. Could THAT be it, I wondered. So I gave up "Diet Rite Cola", cold turkey. And I gave up my nice evening snack of artificially sweetened whipped non fat instant milk. And in a month or so, the lumps in my eyelids disappeared as did the pain in the eyeballs and the blur in the field of vision.
I also pretty well trashed my gall bladder in that dieting stint in 1973 which I found out with a shock when I tried the - then newest thing - the Atkins Diet, had a day and a half of delightful parties in my mouth like cheese quiche and then had the granddaddy of all gall bladder attacks!. Well, that's another show but a common repercussion apparently, of losing a lot of weight on a diet. In fact, in many weight loss surgery patients, they just remove the gall bladder at the time of surgery because they know it's going to go bad anyway. A common repercussion, one of many from dieting which is buried in the medical literature and never talked about in polite company.
The problem with my giving up "Diet Rite" was that without the caffeine load I was getting from the diet cola, I started to feel extreme starvation fatigue (Gina Kolata called it "Primal hunger" in her recent book, "Re-Thinking Thin") It's our body's major production of hormones to force us to eat to gain weight and feel better. Worked for me. I'd felt this kind of fatigue before, (also identified in the Ansel Keyes starvation studies of the 1940's) when I was in my early 20's trying to force my weight to a socially acceptable number and I knew there was only one way to feel better. To eat! So eat I did. I'm not a binge eater. I just ate normally but that caused a 90 lbs weight gain.
The sweetener in Diet Rite Cola was saccharine, then considered "totally safe" despite the fact that it had caused some bladder cancer in the rat studies.
In 1980, another sweetener came out. Aspartame or Nutrasweet. I investigated it, wondering if it would work better than saccharine had done for me. But when I found it could turn into formaldehyde in your body, seemed kind of a no brainer that it was more than a bit toxic. That logical thought process and my observing a member of my online community (BBS in those days) get a case of Multiple Sclerosis rendering her bedfast which "miraculously went away" when she stopped consuming Nutrasweet, were a strong argument in my book to stay away from the chemical! I decided to not consume Nutrasweet or aspartame long before the anti Aspartame folks arose on the net. And to this day, I still remain an aspartame virgin.
My huge weight gain after my first tour of Weight Watchers was my fault of course, or so I believed.
However, a recent story tells us that some of my weight gain might have been because my heavy consumption of artificial sweetener had caused changes in my brain chemistry. ouch!
In fact, they are telling us, drinking only one can of diet soda a day can cause those changes in brain chemistry which can result in not only, weight gain but a significantly higher risk of heart disease.
After 2 large studies showed that people who drink diet pop had a 30 percent greater chance of gaining weight, and a 30 percent greater chance of low HDL cholesterol and/or metabolic syndrome, two heart disease risk factors, we recently have become aware of a rat study out of Purdue which actually showed the brain chemistry changes in the rats.
Too bad for the pop moguls who had just successfully de-valued the large studies of people "well you see, people who drink diet pop tend to eat more and exercise less" they told us. They don't want us to stop buying diet pop because Americans spend $21 billion bucks on it per year.
The pop industry is trying to de-value the Purdue study but it seems to just not go away. Not only that but now ABC news pulled up other things discovered about artificial sweetener - things which seemed to have evaded the news previously. For example, one expert opined that "the acid load delivered by soda of any kind" can be damaging.
The acid load. hmmm. I remember an internet forward stating that Diet Coke was good for cleaning the toilet. I had seen it eat away the tarnish on a penny in seconds after the penny was dropped into a small glass of it. My husband was not surprised at this - "phosphoric acid is a solvent used in some shops to clean tools," he told me. Diet Coke did clean the toilet well, I found out.
And after a lot of my teeth had had the enamel worn away, I read that cola can eat through the enamel on your teeth.
Diet guru Richard Simmons announced about 10 years ago, that when he quit drinking diet soda, he lost 12 lbs without changing anything else. He was largely ignored, of course.
Now people are beginning to listen. The anti aspartame folks telling us for years, that nutrasweet is an "excitotoxin" (kills brain cells and may be a secondary cause of other ailments like Parkinsonism) or that aspartame delivers a fairly heavy load of methanol into our system (kills liver cells and can cause cirrhosis and after that, can muck up the mitochondria and more) didn't have that much affect on people.
But tell them that diet soda may make you gain weight? That they listen to. Apparently having a dead brain or dying nerve cells isn't a dealbreaker but having a fat body is? 'Nuff said. For once, fat-a-phobia may actually cause us to be healthier.
(Although, they will probably find an equally dangerous chemical to substitute, says my less optimistic side, a chemical which after those selling it tell us it's "safe", people will flock to buy it.)