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April 24 2017

Oh Please! Diet Drinks Don’t Kill

by Julie Gunlock

Alrighty folks, along with basically everything else you consume except water (wait…wait…nope, water too), it turns out diet drinks are going to kill you.

Now is a good time to roll your eyes and crack open a cold Diet Coke…or if you’re a social justice warrior, a Diet Pepsi

This latest bit of alarmism is due to a new “scientific study” published in the scientific journal Stroke, and to the many terrifying headlines that have been generated in mainstream publications. Even the most reasonable person will see these stories and wonder: Is there really any reason to worry?

The short answer is no and here’s why. While some studies are instructive and  while there is good reason to study certain types of foods’ and beverages’ affect on the body, this latest study isn’t really going to generate much concern from the legitimate medical community.

The most important detail people should know is that this study is observational, which in science speak means it is the weakest form of scientific study. The researchers observed the eating and drinking habits of 2,888 individuals using a series of questionnaires over a decade.

Now, I don’t know about you good readers, but if someone asks me what I ate on Saturday night, I might not admit that I ate an entire sleeve of thin mints, followed by two tablespoons of peanut butter and two cheese sticks all washed down with a half-bottle of Chardonnay.

Nope, that seems bad. Instead, I’d likely write down something quite different. I might say that I had three thin mints, an apple with a teaspoon of low fat peanut butter, all washed down with some sparkling water.  In fact, I might even think I was being honest. Memory is a funny thing and human nature demands we fudge reality a little…or a lot.

Back to the study. It’s also important to also know that the study found a correlation between consumption of diet drinks and cardiovascular disease. It did not find a direct causation (meaning, people dropped dead after drinking a Tab and the direct cause was the beverage).

So, what we’re looking at here is that those who drank diet drinks had a slightly higher risk of cardiovascular disease, but…and this is a big but…there are lots of other things that might have caused the disease, like eating higher calorie food, a more sedentary life, or smoking--just to name a few things that could cause cardiovascular disease.

What I find most interesting about these studies is the utter obviousness of the results. These types of studies always make me say: “someone paid someone to study that? Isn’t’ that sort of obvious?” The obvious thing here is that diet beverage drinkers are usually overweight or attempting to diet. I know very few people who willingly drink diet beverages unless they are watching their weight.

So, is it any wonder that those who drink more diet beverages are perhaps dealing with other health related issues, like obesity? Obesity is a well-documented cause of cardiovascular disease.

I’m sure the authors of this study are enjoying their newfound fame and the multiple invites to speak at anti-soda summits. But it isn’t just the authors of this study that are at fault. The media is hungry for these sorts of stories—stories that make people feel bad for or afraid of their heretofore-normal behaviors.

It’s understandable that people are nervous when they see stories like this but we all need to remember, we’re all going to die eventually. It won’t be because of your Diet Coke.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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