Sameer from Toronto, Ontario asks: "If I'm going out for drinks, is it better to have regular or diet soda?"
The sugar in regular soda is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and diet soda is sweetened with aspartame. First, let's look at HFCS.
High Fructose Corn Syrup, Table Sugar, is There Really a Difference?
High fructose corn syrup sweetens most regular sodas and is made by taking corn syrup and turning some of its glucose molecules into fructose molecules by exposing the syrup to yet another enzyme, produced by bacteria. This enzyme converts the glucose to a mixture of about 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. HFCS and table sugar contain the same number of calories – 4 calories per gram.
The reason HFCS is such a prevalent sweetener in America because it’s so much cheaper compared to sugar. The government placed production quotas on domestic sugar and an import tariff on foreign sugar in 1977, but it subsidizes corn production by paying its farmers.
Many scientist link the drastic increase in obesity and diabetes to the introduction to HFCS into the market place approximately 30 years ago but a lot of people don't realized that sucrose (table sugar) is virtually the same ratio of fructose to glucose (50 to 50). So is HFCS worse than sucrose at all, or maybe individuals were already on track to consuming too much sugar already coupled with other sedentary lifestyle choices.
Now that we know how HFCS is made, why it's so prevalent in the American market, and that's it's not much different than sucrose, we'll look at Aspartame.
Aspartame is Made of Naturally Occurring Compounds
Aspartame, found in most diet sodas, is made up of the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid; and it is also made up of methanol. All three of these compounds exist in nature naturally and is present in a lot foods that we consume regularly. For a comparison, look at these following foods that contain the same compounds that are found in aspartame:
- 8 oz glass of milk has 6 times more phenylalanine and 13 times more aspartic acid than 8 oz of aspartame sweetened beverage.
- 8 oz tomato juice has three to five times more methanol.
- 8 oz fruit juice has 12 time more methanol.
Contrary to how soda companies market their diet sodas, aspartame is not calorie free. Aspartame is 4 calories per gram, however, it is 200 times sweeter than sucrose, so less of it is used to sweeten soda and other foods.
The safety of aspartame has been the subject of several political and medical controversies. Despite these controversies, aspartame has not been shown to cancer in laboratory settings.
In a report released on 10 December 2013, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food said that, after an extensive examination of evidence, it ruled out the "potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer," and deemed the amount found in diet sodas an amount safe to consume.
Since there exists no overwhelming evidence of aspartame showing it to be unsafe for consumption and less is used to sweeten diet sodas versus regular, I'd have to choose diet soda over regular to save on the excess sugar.
I hope this gives you all the information you need to help you determine if regular or diet soda is better to drink when you go out.
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