Monday, December 12, 2011

A Diet Soda a Day if the ADA has Their Way


Did you know the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day? At 16 calories per teaspoon, that is adding 352 calories a day. Over a week, that translates to ingesting an additional 2464 calories.  Did you know a 12-ounce can of sugar-sweetened soda contains about 150 calories and 9 teaspoons of sugar? If you are a soda drinker, substituting just one diet soft drink daily for regular soda can save 4500 calories a month with a potential weight loss of about 1 pound per month. 

Sounds so logical, right? No, of course it doesn’t. Curious about the source of this nonsense? It's none other than the American Dietetic Association in an email promoting their publication “the Truth about Artificial Sweeteners or Sugar Substitutes.” While I applaud their mathematics, there are a few things they omitted:
  • By downing something with the equivalent of five packets of junk, way sweeter than sugar, you w bombard your taste buds with sweetness encouraging sweet in another form (after the carcinogens). Diet sodas do not facilitate weight loss.
  • The substitution they suggested, replacing one chemical concoction for another, has another solution.  Why not substitute water for the sugary drink?
  • Oh and because I can do math too, switching one can of soda to water would lead to over $500 a year in your pocket or over $2190 for a family of four. This money could be used to buy food that has some nutritional value worth promoting.
  • Both regular and diet soda increase your risk of osteoporosis, pancreatic cancer, diabetes and dental problems.

And while the ADA used the word “truth” they really mean the truth according to their corporate sponsors. When you go to the ADA’s sponsorship page they politely list and thank all their best buddies. It’s what you’d expect from our nations bastion of nutrition: Coke (and not to offend Pepsi is there too), Mars, Hershey’s. It's the equivalent of a pro-illiteracy group building a school. I can’t wait for my next email. “The truth about chocolate”. If you replace that banana with a Hershey’s miniature, you’ll save 3000 calories a month. We’ll have cancer, no teeth and be just as fat.

It’s abundantly clear how I feel about soda. I would have understood if the ADA said something to the effect of “though there’s nothing nutritious about diet soda having one occasionally doesn’t pose huge risks.” Instead they pushed the diet cancer. I hope the Coke and Pepsi send them a nice thank you note. The header of the email sent to ADA members reads, “How should artificial sweeteners be used as part of a healthy eating plan.” Um, they shouldn't. We can argue about just how much (or in my opinion little) artificial should consumed but let's not put it in the same sentence as healthy.
What do you think of the ADA's diet soda plug? Do you consume soda or sweeteners? Are you an ADA member? What do you think ADA members should do if they feel similarly?

32 comments:

  1. Hmmmm, well, I agree and disagree at the same time. The people I work with are often consuming regular sodas, sucha s coke or root beer, and if I told them to switch to water they would laugh in my face. I really don't feel bad suggesting diet pop, but I also tell them that I would like them to eventually switch to just water or naturally sweetened (lightly) beverages such as SoBo waters. I like to have diet soda as an option for my clients, and I am not convinced that it's really that bad for us. I do get concerned when I have clients consuming a lot of it, but one a day doesn't concern me, and the research doesn't convince me that it's so bad.

    But hey...that's just my opinion, and I'm sure you are right in assuming that the ADA was influenced by Coke....super annoying.

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  2. What I find completely shocking is that Coke, Mars and Hershey's sponsor the ADA. That's such a conflict of interest.

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  3. I applaud your enthusiasm and your passion on this point. It's frustrating that the ADA is wording this in such a way to make it sound like dietitians approve artificial sweeteners. I would be very upset if I were in your shoes. So, bravo!

    I used to eat Splenda like it was my job. This was back when I was in a pretty disordered restrictive phase and I wouldn't eat over 1500 calories a day EVER so Splenda was the only option if I had a sweet tooth. The problem back then was that the less sugar I was eating the more I craved it. It was a constant battle of the sweet tooth. Then I learned all about the dangers of over-doing artificial sweeteners and learned about the link between eating fake sugar and craving sweets and I cut it all out cold turkey. The cravings went away and I saw improvements in my skin, hair, and energy levels.

    I think artificial sweeteners are evil and would rather ingest real sugar in small doses or not at all.

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  4. Gina- it's funny, you think people would laugh in your face but they don't. Some people just haven't thought about what is going into their bodies. I find men especially can go cold turkey if you tell them the reasoning. As for soda "not convinced it's bad for us" to me isn't something I would suggest people eat.
    Stephanie- you think it's a conflict of interest? I can't imagine they actually sat around and said "diet soda should be a part of a healthy diet". More like "we can't say soda is terrible so here, we'll say this"
    Cameo- I was a new RD when Splenda arrived. I too thought it was a great solution but know better now. If forced to drink a regular soda and diet I would choose regular but hopefully in another country where it's sugar vrs HFCS.

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  5. I can always count on you to address these topics! I wanted to cringe when I got the email... it just blows my mind. My first thought was, who is writing these reports ... the people at Cocoa cola or Pepsico?
    If given the choice I would choose a regular soda over a diet soda. Obviously no soda at all is the best choice.
    Above all I can't stand how it makes it sound like all dietitians support the use of artificial sweeteners.
    By the way, I love how you did the cost analysis of switching from diet soda to water!

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  6. It sucks when the organization that (theoretically) represents your interests give bad advice. I'll trust you over the ADA anytime.

    On a different note, I'm going to call Cochon today to see if there is any way they'll ship that sweet potato hot sauce. Wish me (us!) luck!

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  7. Oh boy. This is wrong, on a lot of levels. I'm actually allergic to artificial sweeteners -- they make me break out in hives and swell up -- I avoid them at all times, but they sneak into stuff...even regular gum (not the sugarless kind) has artificial sweetener in it. Weird, right?

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  8. Too funny, Lauren. I saw that webinar email and deleted it before even opening it...as I do most of their sponsored "education." No thanks, ADA.

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  9. Danielle, I clicked on it right before the weekend and was all worked up. Silly me. Lauren- sweeteners do pop up and if large organizations think they're a calorie saver versus the chemicals that they are, hard to fight.
    Marie- thank you for reminding me of a great place/great food when I am fighting the chemical contingency. Lisa- agreed, this is who represents us. It would be different if it was an article or opinion piece.

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  10. Luckily I kicked my soda habit when I was pregnant...and I never went back. Unfortunately I have no kicked my biscotti habit and the one I ate last night had no less than 13 grams of sugar. I definitely felt it too...

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  11. Ameena, I would take 13 grams of real sugar versus a can full of crap any time.

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  12. I'm ambivalent about this. I fully agree that any soda, even diet soda is obviously really bad for you- it's full of chemicals and offers no nutritional value. It can do nothing but harm and clearly switching regular soda for water is the better choice. But, when you have people in the state that the average american is, asking them to switch from all that regular soda to just water might be too overwhelming. In that case, asking them to switch to diet soda to start with might be more realistic and could be a better choice to start them off on a better diet. With a lot of people baby steps are the way to go (particularly low-income, low-education level people who also may have relatively low motivation to change their diets but would benefit health-wise from even a small weight loss), although that certainly doesn't apply to everyone. I will say that I'm uncomfortable with the ADA "endorsing" diet soda though. That definitely makes it sound like diet soda is something that's good for you, or at least not bad for you.

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  13. I agree that changes can be overwhelming but we are a nation in need of overwhelming change. Soda drinker? If water isn't appealing there's flavored seltzers and iced tea. I believe in baby steps if they are in the right direction and not sure regular to diet soda is. Less soda, great, The analogy I used for water was trading 1 soda for water. I also am not a fan of assuming low-income people are less motivated to change. Extra money in your pocket for switching one soda is motivation and when information is presented correctly people change. The ADA shouldn't endorse soda and neither should any of us especially out of fear that people can't change, my fear is that if we think that way they will not.

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  14. Well the ADA doesn't want to beat up on sugary drinks and sodas too much. That's why they offer propaganda...I mean a CDR approved continuing education course taught by Coca-Cola's "Beverage Institute"

    ReallyEatRight.org

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  15. exchanging sugar for toxic chemicals... super advice ADA! *cringe* - As a former regular coke and then diet coke junkie, it's not as life altering as people make it out to be to cut it completely. A family member of mine has kidney disease and one of the (few) things her doctors and I agree upon is it was made progressively worse by her diet soda/artificial sweetener addiction. So pick your poison, or you could just pick neither...

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  16. "I also am not a fan of assuming low-income people are less motivated to change. Extra money in your pocket for switching one soda is motivation and when information is presented correctly people change."

    This! I get so frustrated when people assume that low-income=poor food choices.

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  17. I gave up regular soda. It took two years of weaning myself off them before it got to the point that I absolutely will not drink one. But I've been three years without and haven't missed it at all. It can be done and I agree with Carolyn that it isn't as life altering as people think. Way back in the 80s, when I was in high school a friend of mine pointed out that "only fat people drink diet soda" and whether that's wrong/right/ or inaccurate/insensitive, I do think it was prophetic.

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  18. I completely agree with you.
    I am still a member of the ADA but I think it is ridiculous that the biggest supporters are pepsico etc. I mainly am part of ADA for networking but I am rethinking it.

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  19. I haven't drank "liquid Satan" in over two years. Now if I could just cut out the ice cream...

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  20. First post I have read of yours. You can be sure, I will be reading more. Thank you so much.

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  21. Thanks Melanie- appreciate it.
    "Liquid Satan" agreed. Ice cream not as bad.
    Kristin- I'm not sure what I'll do when my membership is up.
    Caron- sometimes people say things (even if blunt) and it sticks.

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  22. Just came across this (from the movie Up in the Air) -- http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lvo8f3NYRY1qafv79o1_500.jpg

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  23. Great post, Lauren,
    The sponsorship page (http://www.eatright.org/corporatesponsors/) says it all. It's difficult to get a sensible, scientifically based message out when you're in the pocket of big food.

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  24. Exactly Ayala, instead of supporting science by dues are going to supporting big food, how sad.

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  25. I started reading this expecting another RD to say 'we don't know how bad it is, so lets just say its ok.' However I was satisfied to see your article and I applaud your critique. I am a graduating Nutrition & Dietetic student and I have always questioned the ADA's (or the Academy as they like to be called now) opinions.

    This article makes the ADA look silly, and I'm saddened to see RDs being represented by this type of adulterated science.

    Thank you for an excellent blog! Will share this with many of my classmates.

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  26. I flat out hate this. This is what gives RD's a bad rep in the holistic/wellness world. And I don't really have much else to say on the topic haha!

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  27. Ugh. I completely agree. I AM a member of the ADA but mostly for the networking groups. However, that doesn't mean I promote artificial and chemical food. I used to ask my students- "if we went over to the chem lab, would you willingly drink a test tube? If you answered no- rethink your food. It's more chemicals than food." Thanks for a great blog post!

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  28. great point Alex, no test tube drinking for me.

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  29. Absolutely agree with you Lauren! I am behind on e-mails from traveling, so I have not seen the e-mail from ADA yet, but, sadly, it doesn't surprise me. When we go out to eat, I'll sometimes let my kids have a soda. but I always insist it be regular instead of diet. Mostly they drink water ( my daughter loves sparkling water!), milk, or sometimes juice (kids love it mixed with sparkling water to make a "natural" soda :-)

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  30. I have a mixed relationship with Soda. When I was 9-11, I lived in Bahrain and in a compound in the middle of nowhere. There was no fresh water to the taps. Our 'drinking' water came from a special tap at my fathers work who filled up with 2 five gallon containers. Then it was poured into this 3 foot filtration device that eventually gave clean enough water to brush your teeth and boil for cooking.

    However, soda bottles (glass) grew on trees and was like 5c. We used to get creates of them from the store. Coke, 7up and orange. That was our liquid. I can't even begin to tell you how much I wish they had diet stuff back then, chemicals and all.

    I kicked the soda habit many many years ago. Diet and all but continue to be amazed at how much is drank by the population. My kids do not drink it at all. They drink milk, water and sometimes OJ. Mostly water. I have never been able to kick my morning coffee habit though, but it is only 1 and yes I use a packet of spender.

    My opinions on these regulatory groups and associations who are sponsored by the very corporations who are poisoning us is not fit for open viewing.. but at the end of the day, we are all responsible for what we eat and drink and the information is out there for all to find.

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  31. You think that's bad, this year's annual NYSDA has as it's sponsor the corn/fructose group!!
    Yep, agree entirely and I have sent my views to the ADA - in other countries RDs have professional organizations that survive without such sponsorship and still manage to keep fees at the same level as the ADA.
    Tibha

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  32. Do you love Pepsi or Coke?
    ANSWER THE POLL and you could win a prepaid VISA gift card!

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