I am pretty legendary ’round these parts for my affection for Diet Coke, so about once a month (or more) someone tries to scare me off the stuff by sending me an anti Diet Coke article or blog post. I’ve read each and every one of them, and you know what? They’re all a bunch of unfounded, baseless crap. This may be a somewhat unpopular opinion, but I’ll say it loud and proud… THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH DRINKING DIET COKE!

16/365: a man, his dog, and his diet coke

Since 1870, America has had a Surgeon General who, according to www.surgeongeneral.gov, “serves as America’s Doctor by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.” To do this the Surgeon General will, from time-to-time, issue a health warning.

Since 1966, for example, the Surgeon General has insisted that tobacco products have warnings placed on their packaging, the current verbiage for which read: “Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health” and “Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.” Tobacco companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last forty-five years trying to get rid of these warnings, but to no avail. The scientific evidence of tobacco’s risks to our health is too great.

Similarly, the Surgeon General also insists that warnings are placed on alcohol products. Check out these cheery statements:

WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that the consumption of this product, which contains alcohol, during pregnancy can cause mental retardation and other birth defects.

WARNING: The consumption of this product, which contains alcohol, can increase the risk of developing hypertension, liver disease, and cancer.

Booze is big business in America, and its purveyors have done their damnedest to try and get rid of these warnings. Despite this, the Surgeon General has refused to change its stance as the scientific evidence citing alcohol’s danger is clear.

The Surgeon General doesn’t just pick on Big Tobacco and Booze. In the late Seventies the Coca-Cola Company sweetened its diet soda product, Tab, with saccharin, and the Surgeon General insisted that it be sold with the following warning: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

So what does this all have to do with Diet Coke? Well, since its introduction nearly thirty years ago, Diet Coke has repeatedly been deemed safe by the Surgeon General. In fact, Aspartame (the sweetener used in Diet Coke) has been one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the Food and Drug Administration has ever approved. The agency says the more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies it has reviewed confirm that aspartame is safe for the general population.

You may find this hard to believe – especially since the anti-diet soda studies that pop up from time to time receive a lot of press – but the reality is the Surgeon General has given these studies little credence because they are all sizzle and no steak.

A good example of this can be found in msnbc.com’s article, “Daily Diet Soda Tied To Higher Heart Attack Risk.” Despite the sensationalist title, the writer was hardly convinced of the study’s anti diet soda stance, and finished with these quotes:

“Still, the researchers aren’t ready to tell consumers to skip diet sodas. ‘More studies need to be done before that happens,’ said the report’s lead author Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.”

And…

“Soda may not be the villain,” says Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, director of inflammatory risk cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “It may be the other things people consume in association with diet soda. After all, what goes better with pizza or fries than a soda?”

Don’t get me wrong… I realize water is the healthiest liquid we can drink, and that all other liquids (including Diet Coke) should be consumed in moderation. But I thought it was time someone someone stood up and shouted over the criticism, “Viva Las Diet Coke!”

(FYI…I am not being paid by Diet Coke to say this but if they want to send me a case or two I wouldn’t complain!)

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