During one of my sporadic comment rescues, I came across the following query from North (sorry it took so long to find it, amigo):
Russell on the subject of possibly krank products, though possibly this is only loosely related, could I get your opinion on diet pop? Specifically Coke Zero.
I never drank much pop because while I enjoyed the flavor my body would respond to the beverage by flashing into such a heated state that I felt like I was cooking in my own sweat sodden clothes (fruit juices do this to me as well to a much lesser degree).
Anyhow, long story short I tripped across coke zero one day after the gym and A) the flavor really hits the spot and B) no biological heat explosions. The label says it’s zero calori so I assumed it’s some cunning aspartame combo or a sweet salt or something (oddly I find Diet coke nasty tasting, God(ess) help me have I been branded??).
I assume from the content of his question that North is asking about diet soda. I’m not familiar with this thing called “pop,” but can assure you just from the sound of it that it’s something no right-thinking person would consume.
As to the actual question, I am not a big fan of diet soda or other diet beverages. This has more to do with a gut-level hunch that they’re probably not good for you than with any hard scientific evidence. I did a quick scan of the studies that pop up when I entered “artificial sweetener” in the Cochrane Library search bar [unfortunately, I don’t think the abstracts are available if you don’t access the site from a subscription portal], and many of them seem to contradict the idea that artificial sweeteners have an effect on blood sugar, insulin levels or satiety peptides (which make you feel full). It seems clear that it’s far from a settled question if diet soda has an unhealthy effect on the endocrine system.
That said, I have a Michael Pollan-esque view about what people should consume. (As for Pollan himself, I find his writing generally interesting and compelling, but he tends not to acknowledge the tremendous privilege that he enjoys, and which allows him to eat the way he does.) I just don’t think people should eat things that aren’t food, at least not with any regularity. And artificial sweeteners aren’t food. This opinion applies both to things that are “bad” for you, like additives and preservatives and the like, and things that are supposedly “good” for you, like a lot of vitamin supplements. We seem to have a mania for finding something that appears to make people healthier (like red wine), then yanking the purported miracle ingredient out of its biological context and making it into a supplement, assuming the chemical alone will confer the same benefit. Turns out that this isn’t always the case. What’s good for you if you consume it as part of an almond may not actually be good for you if you take a bunch of it as a pill.
Circling back to the main question, as with almost anything people eat or drink, diet soda is probably just fine if you drink it moderately. If you suck down a case of it every two days, it’s probably not good for you.