Can You Actually Get Addicted to Diet Coke?

Despite trying to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, I have a dirty habit. I am a lover of Diet Coke and I drink it on the regular. I know it isn’t the best thing for me. Some articles I have read about it actually call it poison. If I am being honest, I am probably addicted. I have a large soda every afternoon and sometimes during dinner. I even find myself drinking it when I don’t especially want it, while other times my cravings seem out of control.

I know it might be the caffeine I am craving. I sometimes wonder if it is all the other stuff that is thrown in there like fake sweeteners and artificial colors. Can I become addicted to those?

More: What You Need to Know Before Reaching for a Diet Soda

I do know it affects my mood if I have too much. I get tired, groggy even, and I notice I become more irritable and grouchy. My morning headache goes away for a time after I indulge in a cold one, but it always returns later — sometimes worse than before.

If I consume a soda with dinner, something I try not to do too often, I have trouble sleeping, which makes the next day get off to the wrong start. I feel swollen and unmotivated. Despite all of this, I can’t seem to get myself out of the Diet Coke sucking habit.

Aspartame is an artificial non-saccharide that is used to sweeten many foods and beverages. It is made by combining amino acids, aspartic acids and phenylalanine.

It is 200 times sweeter than sugar, therefore saving you many calories, but it seems there is a trade-off.

SheKnows asked Dr. Jennie Ann Freiman, a physician, wellness blogger and founder/product developer of Oobroo Inc, a wellness company, a few questions about the sweetener and whether it can be the reason so many are addicted to diet sodas.

SheKnows: How harmful is aspartame to consume?

Dr. Jennie Ann Freiman: In a word, very..

The FDA rejected approval of aspartame four times based on insufficient safety data and concerns about potential health hazards until eventually, some sort of influence (likely nefarious) prevailed, and it passed in 1981.

While it currently enjoys FDA approval, aspartame is on the EPA list of developmental neurotoxins, chemicals that damage prenatal and infant brains, reflecting serious public health concerns about it. Evidence links aspartame to obesity, metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative disease and cancer (brain cancer, leukemia, lymphoma). Studies supporting the use of aspartame have generally been funded by industry insiders, which might remind you of the tobacco industry insisting for years that cigarette smoking didn’t cause lung cancer. The many years between industry reassurances and when the truth comes out generally makes the companies producing these products lots and lots of money and the people using the product very unhealthy. Right now, the evidence against aspartame continues to grow and consumers are voting with their pocketbooks.

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SK: What is the recommended daily amount?

JAF: Depends on who you ask. According to the FDA, which set the acceptable daily intake of aspartame at 50 milligrams per kilogram, a 120-pound person can consume 2,700 milligrams a day. In Europe, the acceptable intake is 40 milligrams per kilogram daily. According to me: zero. This is a manmade poison with no nutritional value that doesn’t belong in the diet of anyone who cares about their health and wellness. The recommended daily amount is arbitrary since Europe uses a lower one than the U.S. Please note: Labels of everything should always be read because aspartame lurks in non-food items as well, so anyone looking to avoid it needs to read the description of everything they ingest. Aspartame can be found in prescription and over-the-counter drugs, supplements, vitamins, toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum.

SK: Is it addictive?

JAF: Aspartame can create physical and psychological dependence, but I don’t believe it rises to the level of an addiction in the sense of an opioid drug.

SK: Has it been proven to cause health problems if we have too much?

JAF: This question hits on the technicality that allows industry and regulators to deny links between products and diseases. Strictly speaking, to prove causality, you would have to design a study that has a control group not taking aspartame and compare them over time to a group taking it and measure for endpoints such as brain cancer. This would take a very long period of time, be very expensive and is really unethical considering you are asking people to take something that might prove they get cancer… who would pay for that and who would sign up to participate?

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It’s not like a study that might prove a specific intervention is actually good for you. Since we can’t scientifically “prove” the health problems, we get those double-negative statements from the FDA and other regulators: It’s not proven to not be safe, it’s not proven to unsafe… which of course does not mean that it is safe, just that we can’t prove it isn’t. In my view, any amount of aspartame is too much and enough to cause potential health problems. The dose is the poison at any dose.