Why Diet Soda Has No Place In Our Schools
|April 16, 2014||Posted by Stacy under Junk food in school, USDA policy|
If your school still has vending machines filled with soda and other sugary drinks, good news: New proposed United States Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School rules due to kick in this summer should put an end to the sale of full-calorie Coke and Pepsi during school hours. Now, the bad news: The new rules still allow for flavored and carbonated beverages under 40 calories per 8-ounce serving–including diet soda–in our high schools.
But should students be drinking artificially sweetened “diet” drinks? While they may not contribute calories, beverages made with sugar substitutes may be just as bad for their health as sugary drinks, some research suggests. According to a recent paper from researchers at Purdue University, diet soda made with artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking that it is consuming real food and sugar even though it isn’t, which could lead to metabolic confusion and over-consumption of calories. And in a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that diet soda drinkers consume more total calories than sweetened cola drinkers.
It isn’t just about calories!
Take a look at the ingredients of Diet Coke or another major brand of diet soda, and you’ll find a list of synthetic chemicals that couldn’t possibly be good for kids. Caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate and caffeine are what’s inside. If you dig into the safety records of these chemicals, you’ll find a number of red flags.
Caramel color: It sounds innocent enough, but the caramel color added to many cola drinks may contain a suspected carcinogen called MEI-4. In a January 2014 Consumer Reports study, 12 out of 81 brands of soft drinks tested (including Diet Pepsi) contained MEI-4 at scary-high levels (more than 29 micrograms per serving)–enough to potentially carry a cancer warning label in the state of California. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently conducting a safety analysis on 4-MEI and the potential risk to consumers who consume food and beverages made with caramel coloring.
Aspartame: The FDA swears it’s safe. But even if aspartame doesn’t increase the risk for cancer (as some animal studies suggest), there’s evidence that it can screw with your taste buds and lead to overeating.
Phosphoric acid: Used to give a tangy flavor to diet colas, phosphoric acid is a corrosive chemical that can damage tooth enamel, and has been linked to chronic kidney disease and lower bone density.
While more research is apparently needed to make any definitive conclusions, I believe that there are enough question marks to justify keeping diet sodas out of our schools. I suspect that their inclusion is a move designed to appease the food and beverage industry. But please, the last thing we need to do is get kids hooked on artificially sweetened soft drinks that offer no nutritional benefits and, over time, may be detrimental to their health.
Do you think artificially sweetened diet beverages should be allowed in our nation’s high schools? Please weigh in! Scroll down to leave a comment below.