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.)


Katy said...

I wonder whether they investigated whether people who drink diet soda are more likely to diet...and whether THAT could be the cause of some of the ill effects these studies have shown.

I do love how the only thing that seems to make anyone stand up and say "uh-oh" is the terrifying specter of (gasp!) FAT. I mean, there's no other possible reason to stop eating or drinking something, right? Ugh.

SueW said...

It was inevitable ... someone had to post the link to snopes article on aspartame to "prove" that the toxicity of it is an "urban legend". I won't reprint the link here - if you really want to read an article based on what the nutrasweet company says about aspartame (well duh, of course they are NOT going to admit it's toxic - they are selling BILLIONS of bucks of it a year) then you can look it up.

But truth is, some 93 worldwide studies have shown serious toxicity with nutrasweet, ranging from brain cancer to brain damage and neuropathy. The latest study, a whole life rat study, suggested a strong link to leukemia as well (has anyone noticed that the incidence of leukemia has increased since the advent of nutrasweet and in young and old?). This study done by the Ramazzini Institute in Italy (one of the most respected research institutes in the world) has encouraged several countries to ban the sale of aspartame.

The Snopes article on aspartame is a model of POOR research. Nothing is said about the fact that the AMERICAN rat studies also suggested a strong link between aspartame and cancer and that the expert committee strongly advised not approving it and it, in fact was NOT approved until the CEO of the Searle, the developer, sued the FDA. Also, nothing is mentioned about the fact that the only human studies done on the product were less than 6 months in duration and impossible to gauge long term repercussions from or that the chorus of voices against aspartame includes some heavy hitters like Dr Andrew Weil and also the ex-head of the FDA and neurologists like Dr Blaylock. And nothing is mentioned about the fact that the FDA had to close comments about it after receiving within a couple of years of its approval, some 10,000 complaints of aspartame related illness. All Snopes does is quote the Nutrasweet company. Well for that you do not need snopes but that's hardly a "good witness" to the safety of the chemical. "Psst wanna buy a used car?"

mumboj said...

Thank you so much for this, it's finally explained to me what the fuss about artificial sweetners. For me I used to be big into aspartame, the end came for me when I drank a can of d.coke one day, and the taste of it just made me know that I would never drink it again! I have had the occasional go but I just can't stand even the thought of it now. I too was irked by the way the ariticle made such play of it puts on weight as if that's the most telling fact. For me it's not even the damage it may cause, although obviously that's most important what's most salient overall is what the aritcle quotes as the disconnect between taste and calorie load, that is the central reason why no diet food really work, that's why people by low fat cake and ate the whole thing, because the body is trying to get the expected calories. It is our arrogance and stupidity that makes us think that the body is so stupid to be fooled by this low calorie nonsense that is the story behind the whole failure of the diet experiment.

violet_yoshi said...

I use Splenda. I know there is alot of concern over artifical sweeteners causing Cancer, but I have no problem with Splenda.

When I drank diet sodas with Aspartame, I remember feeling a sensation I call feeling woggly. Like kid of dizzy, sort of just not feeling good in a general sense.

I really don't belive Stevia is all that safe. I think it's wrong for people to assume that if something is made in a lab it's automatically bad. When things are made in a lab, that means they equivelant to each other. When you use a plant like Stevia. You don't know where it's coming from, how it was grown. What could've been put in it.

I'm saying this, because I was in a chat where someone keep coming in and everytime someone mentions an artificial sweetener. They immediately say it can cause Cancer and start hocking Stevia. I'm sorry, a plant supplement that is not FDA approved, most likely is more risky to use than a artifical lab made sweetener.

Until I see real proof that artificial sweeteners cause Cancer. I mean by someone official. Not some person who most likely suffers from Hypochondria or Paranoid Schizophrenia posting a site about the evils of artifical sweeteners. I'll keep using Splenda.

I read the article. It didn't say artifical sweetners will make you irrevibly retarded. It didn't say it will cause Cancer. It said it tricks the brain into thinking it's having Calories it is not.

I think you need to calm down and look at the facts, instead of beliving the hysteria. All of the problems related to artificial sweetners, are problems that could be caused by anything else. They're not specific to artifical sweetener use.

Also about using soda to drink the toilet. Yeah, I heard that one. So will you never eat something with Baking Soda in it again? Cause you can clean with that too.

I really have little if no tolerance for fear-based assumptions, which is what the whole artificial sweeteners will kill you claim is based upon.

SueW said...

I appreciate your comments but will comment on a few things you brought up:

You wrote: >>>I really don't belive Stevia is all that safe. I think it's wrong for people to assume that if something is made in a lab it's automatically bad. <<<<

It's just as wrong to assume that if it's made in a lab it's automatically good...

>>>>When things are made in a lab, that means they equivelant to each other.<<<<

Not necessarily true at all. Depends on the chemical.

>>>> When you use a plant like Stevia. You don't know where it's coming from, how it was grown. What could've been put in it.

Agree there. I don't use Stevia either. It is an unknown with only anecdotal testimonials. I guess that's ok for some folks - not ok for me.

Splenda is made of sugar bound tightly with chlorine. The theory is that it cannot be broken up by the body and thus passes through but preliminary studies have suggested that this is not true and that some of it IS broken up and the chlorine released into the system where it can be easily absorbed (in the gut) and chlorine is a toxin. FYI, the expert committee suggested NOT approving Splenda ALSO because it did cause some cancer in the rat studies. They stated A LOT more study was needed but the FDA (follow the money trail) went and approved it anyway. It's very new so we really won't know the repercussions until later on but I prefer to NOT be a guinea pig and perhaps find out the hard way. And even if Splenda is totally safe there is STILL the problem of changing the brain chemistry which is a whole lot more than "tricking" your body to gain weight...

>>>Until I see real proof that artificial sweeteners cause Cancer.<<<

Research it - in the case of aspartame, there are 93 worldwide studies which link all sorts of maladies not only cancer and leukemia but neuropathy and more. That's pretty official. In the case of splenda, as I said the expert committee DID suggest not approving it so that's pretty official also - that chlorine is a toxin is easily researched.

There are a bunch of MD's who disapprove of those chemicals - not exactly hysterical folks suffering from "hypochondria or schizophrenia" as you referred to them.

>>>I think you need to calm down and look at the facts<<<

That's ALL I look at. I do not believe that if someone says it's OK, it's OK neither the opposite. There are plenty of facts to look at about the risks of both aspartame and splenda. The only sweetener which doesn't have a lot of stuff available in the way of research on the internet is saccharin and I am personally allergic to it.

>>>I really have little if no tolerance for fear-based assumptions, which is what the whole artificial sweeteners will kill you claim is based upon.<<<<

I never said artificial sweeteners will kill you. I said they are a chemical which is probably not real good for our bodies and I cited studies which suggest this. I respect that you choose to ignore the research but I do hope you will be as tolerant of those who choose to NOT ignore the research as those who choose TO ignore the research.

A lot of times, logic will give us a pretty good decision on a new substance, and sometimes, logic might be the ONLY thing which saves us.

Example. Phen Fen. Doctors were prescribing 80,000 RX's a month of the stuff. I said pretty early in the game, "Look at the way it works... it makes your heart beat faster - that cannot be healthy" You know back when everyone was taking it? So I never took Phen Fen. Good decision... we STILL have droves of folks with PHS and valve problems from it and Meridia.

Example. In the 1960's the birth control pill came out. Since that's when we got married, everyone asked if I was going to take the pill. It seemed like the magical solution. I said "No, I'm not going to take it because you know, that's a very delicately balanced system, the reproductive system and I feel that dumping large amounts of foreign hormones into the body would be very unhealthy". The repercussions of the pill were worse than ever imagined... 40 percent greater chance of heart attack, thrombosis and stroke (see the Merck Manual... it's right in there) AND an elevated risk of breast cancer! My logic saved me there too.

I have a very simple method... when in doubt, DON'T.

As I said I respect your choices but as far as your allegations of my not looking at the facts, I wanted to clarify that, that's ALL I look at.