On Thursday, September 13th, the New York City Board of Health passed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to ban sodas and other sugary drinks over 16 ounces in restaurants, sporting venues, movie theaters and street carts in an attempt to detox soda lover’s addictions.
The ban that is planned to go into effect in March, does not affect grocery stores, convenience stores and vending machines. It also will not affect diet sodas or other diet drinks.
The birth of sugar-free beverages began in the year 1952 in Brooklyn, New York by Kirsch Bottling who created a diet ginger ale called No-Cal. It wasn’t until the 60’s that Coca-Cola joined in on the trend.
Consumers usually drink diet sodas and other beverages under the mentality that they are losing weight, or preventing sugar intake that can cause diabetes. But this is simply not the case. In 2011, The American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions suggested that diet drinks may contribute to weight gain. They study also found a link between artificial sweeteners and Type 2 diabetes.
The correlation between packing on pounds and artificial sweeteners that have no calories might be that the brain anticipates a high caloric intake when tongues encounter sweet or fatty foods.
Professor Kathleen Axen, who teaches health and nutrition sciences at Brooklyn College, stressed that she refrains from drinking artificially sweetened beverages. She advised that occasional soda consumption won’t kill anyone, but like all food groups in terms of nutrition, it is all about portioning control. “Go with seltzer, go with water. It is criminal that a bottle of water costs the same as a bottle of soda. Of course people are going to buy the soda because you might as well get something for your money,” she said.
“There’s a lot of new data coming out that your cells actually have receptors to these sweeteners. People thought that they were inner substances that didn’t have any effect on your body. But in fact, those that are absorbed actually have effects on cells because cells that have receptors for glucose, also will have receptors to these artificial sweeteners,” Axen continued.
There are now interests and concerns as to what kind of medical effects large amounts of artificial sweeteners can have on our bodies. “There are people who drink a six pack of diet beverages every day. They do it so they don’t want other things. What kind of effect is that having?” she asked.
The professor showed deep concern over this, arching her brows in dismay. “They are another population I would worry about.”
What is alarming is the unknown effects the chemicals in diet drinks can have on children. “Unborn children, if the mother’s consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy and its known that these sweeteners have effects on cells, what kind of effects might it have on fetal development?” asked Axen.
“Maybe this rash of pediatric obesity has something to do with the mother’s eating habits during pregnancy. People assume things are safe just because they don’t have an immediate effect, or chronic effect.”
Diet sodas and the like consist of the sugar-substitute, aspartame that was approved by the FDA in 1974, cyclamates that the FDA banned in 1970 under the premise that it caused cancer in rats and saccharin which was banned then lifted because of the similarities of cyclamates. Aspartame is the primary chemical used in diet thirst-quenchers.The effects aspartame can have on our bodies include blindness in the eyes, ringing in the ears, seizures, headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, tremors, allergies, nausea, bloating, brain damage, ulcers, birth defects, Lyme Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease Multiple Sclerosis, Hypothyroidism, Lupus, non-Hodgkins, Lymphoma and Attention Deficit Disorder, just to name a few. The body simply cannot break down the chemical and it can deposit in any tissue. “There are sodas that have artificial flavoring and colors and some people believe that contributes to behavioral problems. I don’t particularly myself, but there’s that kind of line of thought,” stated Axen.
There is a diet that has been popular called the fenigold diet which had to do with eliminating artificial colors and sweeteners from the diets of children who have hyper activity disorder and there’s a little bit of evidence for it. Professor Axen expressed that it’s not widely accepted by people in the field.
But what about Bloomberg’s ban to help regular soda and sugary-drinkers beat their addiction? According to Professor Axen, the only way to decrease the consumption is to increase the price.
“The reason why the price is so low is that the government subsidizes the corn industry. If the government stopped subsidizing the corn industry, then high fructose corn syrup would not be cheap and sodas would cost more. People would of themselves decrease their consumption,” she said.
“If you’re going to subsidize something, subsidize water instead of corn.”