Thursday, August 15, 2013

Coke ad insists Aspartame is A-OK

Via Scribd

There it is, in all its oddly-centred, fake-ad-looking headline glory. 

I'll quote the body copy in full:
For over 127 years, people have been coming together over Coca-Cola products to refresh, to celebrate, and to enjoy a moment with something they love. One reason why is that people have always been able to trust the quality of our products and everything that goes into them. 
That’s something that will never change. 
But changing with the times and people’s tastes is something we’ve always done. Today, that means offering more great-tasting, low- and no-calorie choices. And while nearly everyone can agree that providing choices to help people manage the calories they take in is a good thing, we understand that some people have questions about the use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners. 
Our use of high-quality, low- and no-calorie sweeteners, including aspartame, allows us to give people great-tasting options they can feel good about. Time and again, these low- and no-calorie sweeteners have shown to be safe, high-quality alternatives to sugar. In fact, the safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years.* 
Today, we’re proud to offer a wide range of Coca-Cola products that fit different people’s life- styles. Because we believe that when people come together with more choices that are right for them, good things happen. 
For more information, including third-party studies on the benefits and safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners, go to
*International Food Information Council Foundation. 2011. Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame. Magnuson, B.A., et al. 2007. Aspartame: A safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies. Crit Rev Toxicol. 37: 629_727. Aspartame is safe for use by nearly all populations. The only exception is people born with phenylketonuria (PKU) who cannot metabolize phenylalanine. But, this does not mean aspartame is unsafe for other consumers. 

Ad Age says the campaign will run in USA Today in Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Chicago Tribune. Then again, media buys are just proof it's a real ad. Many more people will see it online.

Ad Age also quotes a Coke news release:
"We believe there is a real opportunity to bring people together to educate them about low- and no- calorie sweeteners. Low- and no-calorie sweeteners offer a great way for people to manage their calories while still enjoying the sweet taste that they love. We understand, though, that some people have questions about these ingredients, especially aspartame. We felt it was important for us to answer these questions and reinforce that these are ingredients people can feel good about."
I'll try not to write anything I could get sued for. I'll just say that, as a parent, I do not believe "diet" soft drinks are a healthy choice for me or for my son, and we will not have them in our house. We promote drinking water as the #1 thirst quencher for him, followed by milk and limited fruit juice. We even allow the occasional sweetened "pop" in the house, but prefer real sugar over corn syrup. That's just us.

Oh, and this is Qing Yang in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in 2010:
Intuitively, people choose non-caloric artificial sweeteners over sugar to lose or maintain weight. Sugar provides a large amount of rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, leading to excessive energy intake, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome. Sugar and other caloric sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup have been cast as the main culprits of the obesity epidemic. Whether due to a successful marketing effort on the part of the diet beverage industry or not, the weight conscious public often consider artificial sweeteners “health food”. But do artificial sweeteners actually help reduce weight? 
Surprisingly, epidemiologic data suggest the contrary. Several large scale prospective cohort studies found positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain.
They didn't claim is was good for you. They just said it was "safe" and that you can "feel good about it". If you want a better look at their arguments and sources, there's a handy infographic at their advocacy site.

As a parting thought, however, I wonder if drawing attention to the issue is going to backfire.


  1. It's interesting they cite the International Food Information Council Foundation as a source. Of its parent, the International Food Information Council, the Center for Media and Democracy says:

    "... IFIC is a public relations arm of the food, beverage and agricultural industries, which provide the bulk of its funding. Its staff members hail from industry groups such as the Sugar Association and the National Soft Drink Association, and it has repeatedly led the defense for controversial food additives including monosodium glutamate, aspartame (Nutrasweet), food dyes, and olestra. It also runs the corporate-friendly website,, with games and recipes for kids."

    I applaud your own family's thirst-quenching beverage choices. :)