Slumping soda sales reflect growing wariness of harmful sweeteners

Posted by
April 8, 2014

dietpepsi

By BILL BONVIE

Are Americans waking up to what’s actually in the food and beverages they’re buying?

An important indication that such awareness is finally getting through to the public came last week in a report that soda sales, both regular and diet — and especially the latter — are in a substantial slump. “Soda losing its grip on America,” is the way it was headlined by ABC News, which noted that sales figures show a three percent decline, with those for diet soda double that, representing “hundreds of millions of fewer bottles” consumed. Nor did this “seismic change, ”as ABC termed it, just come about – it’s been going on for quite some time, with Americans now drinking 20 percent fewer carbonated soft drinks than in 1998, according to the report.

What makes this especially encouraging news is that the message finally seems to be hitting home that both varieties of soft drinks are among the worst products currently on the market from a health standpoint.

Caloric sodas – you know, the ones usually misidentified by nutritionists, politicians and reporters as “sugary drinks” – are probably the leading source of the unnatural sweetener high fructose corn syrup, which as we have so often pointed out, shouldn’t be confused with “sugar” (meaning sucrose) – and which is first on our list of the “top ten food additives to avoid.”

As for “diet sodas” (or any type of “diet” drink or product, for that matter), they’re infused with the artificial sweetener aspartame, a notorious neurotoxin and threat to brain cells whose ‘rap sheet’ includes many thousands of cases of adverse reactions, along with studies linking it to brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in rhesus monkeys.  In fact, aspartame is number 2 on our list of worst additives — an ingredient we refer to as the “diet devil in disguise” because it is often misrepresented as a healthy non-caloric alternative to sugar (or HFCS). And the bad news about it just keeps coming, with a new University of Iowa study having found that women who drink just two diet sodas a day have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

What all this adds up to is that neither of these laboratory-created ingredients should be a part of anyone’s diet. Yet the American beverage industry has been putting them in its carbonated drinks for a good many years – and in so doing, has been wreaking havoc on our collective health in ways that are both obvious and invisible.

Consumers catching on to toxic additive risks

In addition to research pointing to HFCS as a likely culprit in the current epidemics of obesity and diabetes (which correspond with its having replaced sugar in soda and many other products for purely economic reasons), different studies conducted over the past few years have linked this cheap laboratory concoction to increased risks of heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, kidney disease and pancreatic cancer.

As the public has become more aware of these potential health problems, increasing numbers of consumers have made a point of avoiding HFCS, despite a campaign by the Corn Refiners Association to misrepresent it as a natural product “made from corn” and even rename it “corn sugar.” But while it’s been removed from some processed foods, it has remained as an ingredient of most regular soft drinks, which may help account for their rapid decline in popularity.

If diet soda sales are showing an even greater drop, that may well have a lot to do with the fact that more and more people are becoming knowledgeable about aspartame’s dangers, despite attempts by industry, the Food and Drug Administration and even the media to stifle such concern by making it appear benign. (ABC News, for example, notes in the print version of its recent story that Americans “don’t seem to be convinced that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are safe, even though there is no scientific evidence that they cause any harm” – a statement many experts would dispute.)

The new level of consumer awareness that may be largely responsible for pushing down soda sales was perhaps best summed up by Robert Banks, a Washington, D.C. resident who told ABC News: “I have been trying to eliminate high fructose corn syrup, so soda is the number one culprit. Once I stopped drinking sodas I began to lose weight, which reinforced my desire to drink water. I thought about diet soda, but I recently heard studies that indicate artificial sweeteners aren’t healthy.”

No doubt, a lot of other people are coming to the same conclusions. The response of the beverage industry has been to diversify into products other than sodas, perhaps blaming the fact that they’re losing their “fizz” with the public on campaigns waged against these so-called “sugary drinks” by politicians and nutritionists.

But what both the industry and its critics may not realize is that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy – and the real reasons they’re increasingly turning their backs on Coke, Pepsi and all their carbonated cousins have to do with the fact that, for a long time now, they’ve been anything but “sugary.”