Why I am not giving up diet soda

Recently a spate of news articles have been released sounding the alarm about a supposed link between diet soda consumption and the risk of clotting (ischemic) stroke and dementia. Much ado has been made of this. Panic and running nekkid in the streets with asses on fire. It’s been amazing.

I’ve been arguing with diet-soda haters for years now. Previous to this it was that drinking diet soda makes you fat and diabetic. I’ve been DYING for a valid explanation that would satisfy me but so far all anyone can come up with is that merely tasting sweetness makes you diabetic and fat. This coming from the same idiots who extol us to eat healthier but ply us with recipes for treats containing honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and sometimes–hold on to yer hats–fructose-heavy, liver-destroying agave nectar. The irony, of course, is completely lost on these twits. I’ve given up on them seeing reason long since.

My argument has always been that people who don’t have weight problems and who apparently don’t have chronic health problems of any sort are not going to see any good reason to drink diet soda nine times out of ten. The remaining ten percent are not going to be a statistically significant enough population to bother studying. So you would expect to see more health problems in diet-soda drinkers as they were already in medical trouble when they made the switch away from sugar. That has certainly been my situation; I was already fat and in the throes of reactive hypoglycemia, or at least something very like the description of that condition, when I gave up sugar soda*.

And funny, but if you look at the actual summary of the study, you find data pointing in that direction. Here’s how they explained part of what they did.

A third statistical model included the adjustments outlined in Model 1, as well as additional cardiometabolic variables that may be influenced by sugary beverage intake1,2,14,15 or associated with an increased risk of stroke or dementia.3,4,16 These variables included systolic blood pressure, treatment of hypertension, prevalent cardiovascular disease, atrial fibrillation, left ventricular hypertrophy, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, prevalent diabetes mellitus, positivity for at least 1 apolipoprotein E ε4 allele (for analysis of dementia only) and waist-to-hip ratio (Model 3).


When examining cumulative beverage consumption, daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink was associated with an increased risk of both all-cause dementia and AD dementia in Models 1 and 2 (Table 3; Table II in the online-only Data Supplement). However, such associations were no longer significant after adjustment for the covariates outlined in Model 3.

I wanted to emphasize that last sentence to make sure you wouldn’t miss it, but I don’t want you skipping any of the rest of either quoted passage. Also read the section called Mediation Analysis (see link below).

The researchers claim they found no association between sugar-soda consumption and either dementia or ischemic stroke. I initially found this difficult to believe, knowing that many researchers now consider Alzheimer’s to be a sort of Type 3 diabetes, and that ischemic stroke happens more often in diabetics just as heart disease does (which frequently involves clots). But other people who’ve read over this study say that the rate of sugar-soda drinking was far, far lower than the rate of diet-soda drinking among study respondents. Given that the respondents were middle-aged, the people really dedicated to soda-drinking would have long since switched to diet and whoever was left was only having sugar sodas once in a while as occasional treats. Also please note this was an observational study utilizing food-frequency questionnaires and so (1) the information is not 100% accurate and, I’d hazard a guess, not even close and (2) this study is not meant to be the final word on anything, merely a starting point for further study.

I’d also like to point out one more observation. In the health-nut community’s jihad against diet soda, they continually fail to remember that not all diet sodas have the same sweeteners, and so you wouldn’t expect them all to have the same health effects, since we’re discussing radically different chemicals here. This points even more strongly in the direction of people-already-have-health-problems-when-switching-to-diet-soda.

And finally, to answer the charge that diet soda isn’t a health food anyway, neither are wheat germ, tofu, and chia seeds… and yet, the three major health-nut populations I know of push one or all of those. Tell you what, clean up your own shitty diet plans before you go criticizing other people’s treats.

You have no idea how much sugar soda I used to drink. The fact that I’m not drinking it anymore and in fact have long since kicked caffeine addiction as well is a major victory. There are so many treats I can’t have now if I want to be healthy that I am not at all ashamed at holding on to one that I can have. I waste my time defending my habit only because I’d hate for this option to go away thanks to unfounded consumer hysteria stoked by anti-science nutjobs who can’t even read a research study.

Yes, I’m talking about you. Don’t bother shooting the messenger. CLEAN UP YOUR MESS.

Starting with reading the actual damn study abstract. If you think you can handle it.

No love,

*Similarly, the hysteria about multivitamins causing health risks. There is some room to argue that the folic acid you find in most multivitamins is a risk to people with MTHFR mutations, but most of the reason you find people on multivitamins getting sicker and dying sooner is that if someone is already healthy, they don’t think they need nutritional supplementation, so you won’t see them taking vitamins. This is so staggeringly obvious that one is tempted to round up all these anti-vitamin hysterics and hook them up to EEGs to make sure their brains are still working.

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