Twenty-three years ago, after taking high doses of fertility drugs (Pergonal, Metrodin, and Lupron), my case information was added to the mammoth Harvard Medical School Nurses’ Health Study looking for various links with cancer. Soon after, my annual questionnaires were funneled into the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, and it left me with an interest in well-done, long-term clinical studies.
Smaller studies over the years have established a link between aspartame consumption and cancer risk, but these studies were frequently criticized as too small, too short in duration, or not scientific enough. However, the huge Harvard study addresses these concerns and substantiates what earlier, smaller ones already stated: that aspartame can increase your risk of certain types of cancer, exponentially.
My father used to say that you can twist a scientific study say anything you want it to. There are so many factors from politics and greed to personal bias and internal coercion. What we mothers really need to do is our research, be discerning in everything we read, ask for wisdom, and use our God-given motherly instincts.
The Aspartame-Cancer Link
Scientists studied data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study for a period of 22 years, including over 77,000 female study subjects and nearly 48,000 males. Totally, this mega-study reviewed “2,278,396 person-years of data”, the most of all previous aspartame studies.
What this study found, however, is frightening. According to Natural News, the combined results of this new study showed that just one 12-fl oz. can of diet soda daily leads to:
– 42 percent higher leukemia risk in men and women (pooled analysis) – 102 percent higher multiple myeloma risk (in men only) – 31 percent higher non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk (in men only)
Apart from sheer size, what makes this study superior to other past studies is the thoroughness with which aspartame intake was assessed. Every two years, participants were given a detailed dietary questionnaire, and their diets were reassessed every four years. Previous studies which found no link to cancer only assessed participants’ aspartame intake at one point in time, which could be a major weakness affecting their accuracy.
There are so many other problems with aspartame that are beyond the scope of this post, and I include specific foods to avoid:
8 More Reasons To Give Up Diet Soda according to CNN Health:
1.) Confuses The Body: Artificial sweeteners have more intense flavor than real sugar, so over time products like diet soda dull our senses to naturally sweet foods like fruit, says Brooke Alpert, author of “The Sugar Detox.” Even more troubling, these sugar stand-ins have been shown to have the same effect on your body as sugar. “Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain,” Alpert says.
2.) Weight Gain: Diet soda is calorie-free, but it won’t necessarily help you lose weight. Researchers from the University of Texas found that over the course of about a decade, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference compared with non-drinkers. Another reason might be psychological, says Minnesota-based dietitian Cassie Bjork. When you know you’re not consuming any liquid calories, it might be easier to justify that double cheeseburger or extra slice of pizza.
3.) Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes: Drinking one diet soda a day was associated with a 36% increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in a University of Minnesota study. Metabolic syndrome describes a cluster of conditions (including high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, raised cholesterol, and large waist circumference) that put people at high risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, Bjork explains.
4.) Replaces Needed Water Intake:When you drink diet soda, you’re not taking in any calories – but you’re also not swallowing anything that does your body any good, either. The best no-calorie beverages plain old water. “Water is essential for many of our bodily processes, so replacing it with diet soda is a negative thing,” she says. If it’s the fizziness you crave, try sparkling water.
5.) Headaches:Early studies on aspartame and anecdotal evidence suggests that this artificial sweetener may trigger headaches or migraines in some people. “I have several clients who used to suffer from migraines and pinpointed their cause to diet soda,” Bjork says.
6.) Corrodes Teeth Over Time:Research published in the journal General Dentistry compared the mouths of a cocaine user, a methamphetamine user, and a habitual diet-soda drinker, and found the same level of tooth erosion in each of them. The culprit here is citric acid, which weakens and destroys tooth enamel over time.
Dentists recognize soda as destructive to teeth. If you must drink sodas, here is a list of what you can do to prevent what is now called ‘soda-pop teeth’.
7.) Depression:A recent study presented at a the American Academy of Neurology meeting found that over the course of 10 years, people who drank more than four cups or cans of soda a day were 30% more likely to develop depression than those who steered clear of sugary drinks. The correlation held true for both regular and diet drinks, but researchers were sure to note that the risk appeared to be greater for those who primarily drank diet sodas and fruit punches. Although this type of study can’t prove cause and effect, its findings are worth considering.
8.) Osteoporosis:Women over 60 are already at a greater risk for osteoporosis than men, and Tufts University researchers found that drinking soda, including diet soda, compounds the problem. Additionally, a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cola intake (all kinds, not just diet) was associated with low bone-mineral density in women.
Although there are other sources of aspartame, diet soda remains the most popular. In the United States, we consume an estimated 5,250 tons of aspartame each year, of which 86% is in the form of diet sodas.
Our government and the FDA know about these peer-reviewed studies (linked below) as they are archived with the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Sadly, greed has won out, and these drinks continue to be advertised as safe on the market. We need to be proactive for the health of our families. I urge you to consider not bringing soda of any kind into your home and teach your young children why. One day they will likely thank you.