Why is Diet Coke dangerous?

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Why is Diet Coke dangerous?

There is a relatively rare birth defect call phenylketonuria (PKU.) It is an autosomal recessive trait inherited in a classic Mendelian pattern. A person may have inherited the PKU gene from one parent but not both parents; that means the person is a carrier for the trait, but will not have the disease and will not manifest any symptoms. YOU could be a carrier for PKU and not even know it. If you mate with someone who is NOT a carrier, none of your children will have PKU but there is a 50% chance that each one of them will be a carrier for the disease.

If a carrier mates with another carrier, there is a 25% chance that each child will inherit the gene from both parents and, therefore, develop the disease.

Phenylalanine is an "essential" amino acid. There are approximately 20 amino acids that naturally combine into chains to form polypeptides and proteins. Most proteins do NOT contain all 20 of the essential amino acids. When your body processes proteins, it breaks the protein down into its amino acids components and eventually those amino acids are further metabolized by the liver and excreted in the urine.

A person with PKU lacks the ability to metabolize and excrete the phenylalanine metabolites and they build to toxic levels in the body. That is what causes most of the symptoms of PKU. It does not compromise the life expectancy of its victims but people with PKU may have a life of marginal existence and dependence, at best.

The symptoms of PKU may include

-- A musty odor in the breath, skin or urine, caused by too much phenylalanine in the body
-- Neurological problems, including seizures
-- Skin rashes (eczema)
-- Fair skin and blue eyes (because people with PKU can't convert phenylalanine into melanin, the pigment responsible for hair and skin tone)
-- Abnormally small head (microcephaly)
-- Hyperactivity
-- Intellectual disability
-- Delayed development
-- Behavioral, emotional and social problems
-- Psychiatric disorders


I have told you about PKU because it is a relatively simply and easily understood example of the interplay between "nature and nurture." The nature vs. nurture issue arises frequently when we discuss human behavior; does a person behave a certain way because they were born with that behavior "programmed" in their genetic complement, or because they were exposed, early in life, to an environment which promoted that behavior. The answer is usually not easily discerned.

E.g, suppose I identify a certain behavior that is much more common in people of Chinese descent. Certainly they have a different and unique genetic blueprint that manifests in some obvious ways, but most of them were also raised in China and they were exposed to certain behaviors in their parents, grew up eating a certain diet which varies from a Western or African diet, and we can't really say that the "Chinese" behavior under study is caused by Chinese genetics or Chinese nurturing.

Back to PKU. (While it is clearly an inherited condition, it is interesting that it occurs less frequently in people of African descent.) If you are born with PKU, are you doomed to a lifetime of seizures, rashes, microcephaly, hyperactivity, intellectual disability, etc.?

No. In the US, every child is screened shortly after birth for the presence of PKU. If a child is positive, they are immediately started on a low protein diet, because that is the sole source of phenylalanine in our diet. Take away phenylalanine and the body can't produce the dangerous phenylalanine metabolites that harm the body. People with PKU are also given a protein supplement composed only of proteins which do not contain phenylalanine. Finally, there is a relatively new drug - sapropterin (Kuvan) - which reportedly makes phenylketonurics more tolerant of phenylalanine, but its long term efficacy is not well established.

If treated from infancy with the above regimen, most phenylketonurics will not develop symptoms of the disease and they will develop normally both physically and mentally. It is controlled extremely well by these dietary restrictions.

So, this is a disease that is inherited but the expression and severity of the disease is controlled quite effectively by modifications of diet. So, nature and nurture both work together for phenylketonurics.

Aspartame is the artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke and many other diet soft drinks. Aspartame contains phenylalanine so anyone with PKU should avoid drinking Diet Coke and any of the other diet drinks sweetened with aspartame! Next time you see a can of Diet Coke, I'll bet you look at the label for the PKU warning.

Why is Diet Coke dangerous?
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Most Helpful Guy

  • MarkRet
    If the FDA hasn't banned it, I'm taking that as being fine with me. I don't take recreational drugs, don't smoke, and drink very little alcohol, so I'm not going to be afraid of EVERYTHING. I still drink Diet Cokes (or Diet Pepsi, if that's what's around). I have to have SOMETHING fun.
    Is this still revelant?
    • There are some people who will tell you that every artificial sweetener is dangerous but I think you must balance the risks of the artificial sweetener against the harm if you drink things sweetened with sugar and the monotony of life if you make every choice on the basis of what will give you an extra 10 seconds of life expectancy.

      I LOVE Diet Coke!

Most Helpful Girl

  • PaynefulPleasures
    Love it, I guess I'm living on the edge 😜Why is Diet Coke dangerous?
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • Massageman
    Great info. So many GRAS (generally regarded as safe) ingredients are being found to really be GRAD.

    Just a little flup on the amino acids.
    Our body can make several on its own amino acids, but there are some others that it CAN'T make: those are the ones called "essential" amino acids since we must eat them in foods or supplements. And, to be bio-available to make proteins, ALL the amino acids need to be present simultaneously. Animal products- burgers, steak, chicken, eggs, etc- have complete amino acids. Plant products do not. That is why we see plant-origin food pairings such as Cajun dirty beans and rice, Mexican refried beans on corn tortillas, etc. The grain has some of the aminos, while the beans/legumes have the rest. Both must be eaten together so that all the amino "building blocks" are present simultaneously to make those proteins.
  • razelove
    It isn't troublesome in small amounts, neither is it the phenylaline that's an issue. It's the other side product in the body which is methanol getting broken down into formic acid. That messes with your nerves, eyesight, liver, and like anything else is most dangerous for fetuses and babies. Aspartame is what does that.

    There are artificial sweeteners with no side effects that don't get digested by the body. Saccharin is an acid that is ridiculously sweet and up to 500 mg a day can be absorbed with no side effects. Considering it's 300-400 times sweeter than sugar, with aspartame being at 200 times sweeter, that's equivalent to ingesting 150g of sugar a day with no effects as far as taste goes.

    Anyway, too much of anything is bad for you. I accidentally got sodium saccharin on a pen in the lab I was chewing on and the sweetness was painful and unbearable. 99% pure that I had just synthesized as a precursor. You could kill someone through methanol poisoning using aspartame, but it would be simpler to just put straight methanol into an ethanol drink and do that. Also that's more common from moonshine that hasn't been distilled properly.
    • "neither is it the phenylalanine that's an issue" I assume you are talking about consumers who do not have PKU.

    • razelove

      That's a personal problem, like if you're allergic to peanuts, you adopt behaviors to avoid foods that will kill you. If you have Tay Sachs you drop gluten. I have epilepsy, the raves were a venue I had to avoid despite the enormous opportunity to get laid.

      It happens.

    • razelove

      Methanol is dangerous to everyone. Formic acid is dangerous to everyone, the byproducts of breaking down methanol into formic acid and further into non-toxic products are harmful to the liver.

      Ironically you can get over that hump without harm by drinking dilute ethanol for about 2 days straight. So you can drink as much diet coke as you want if you don't have PKU if you put a little vodka with it, and have a beer or two before bed, and in the morning, maybe one with lunch to be safe, you'll flush the methanol out.

    • Show All
  • Bella9191
    Well not to mention it also has aspartame in it which is poisonous. Initially the chemical did not reach approval but because of some powerful billionaires and the investments they made into certain plants making aspartame. you guessed it the decision to not approve it got revoked. Anything with aspartme in it should be avoided.
    • Yes, but you would need to drink 18 cans of Diet Coke in a day to exceed the daily safe level established by the FDA (or 15 cans to exceed the EFSA level.)

    • Bella9191

      You do realise the fda approved something so toxic. And then you believe it’s explanation as well? Cmon lol,

    • Everyone who fails to immediately accept your pronouncements is not an idiot.

      "The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved aspartame for use in food and drink back in 1981. Agencies in Europe, Canada, and many other countries also approve its use. Furthermore, the following authorities endorse it:

      World Health Organization
      United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
      American Heart Association
      American Dietetic Association

      In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a review of hundreds of studies looking into the effects of aspartame. The EFSA ruled aspartame safe for human consumption and set an acceptable daily intake or ADI of aspartame at 40 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. The EFSA’s ADI for aspartame is 10 mg lower than the amount the FDA consider safe. However, the amounts set by both the EFSA and the FDA are far more than most people consume in a day.

      A can of diet soda, for example, contains only about 190 mg of aspartame. A person would have to consume more than 19 cans of soda to reach the ADI limits."


      I looked at several other sources which gave consistent summaries of the evidence.

  • midnightmoon05
    Didn’t grow up drinking soda. Once in the US, I tried. It was okay. Occasionally I drank... one day. It didn’t taste good to me. I stopped drinking any soda drinks since. I can’t even recall how many years ago. I actually have never had Diet Coke.
    I still go by eat real food from the earth. Processes food doesn’t work well with taste and feels bloated after eating anything processed. not missing out here...
  • exitseven
    I never drink or eat any diet foods. I used to watch really obese people wheeling shopping carts full of diet stuff in the supermarket. It led me to the belief that the stuff does not work.
    • But you don't know how much fatter they would be if they were purchasing the non-diet foods.

    • exitseven

      That is true but I just saw a pattern. I saw healthy looking people pushing shopping carts with lots of fruits and vegetables as well.

  • PBandJ_Nerd
    I didn't really know what PKU was, it was just something I'd always see on the can. I know that diet soda can still put you at risk for diabetes and a few other diseases. It just goes to show that just because something doesn't have sugar in it doesn't mean it is healthier for you-it's just as bad as a regular soda. I usually drink diet simply because there's way too much sugar and added sugars in most sodas these days. But other than that I like to drink my one seltzer.
  • TommyMountainFigure
    Whilst I don't claim to be an expert on fizzy drinks (partly because I don't drink them anyway, with the exception of sparkling spring water) I do remember reading once about the origins of coke.
    When it was fist made, I believe it was sold as a solution for all. You could drink it as a cure for ailments, or you could use it to clean and disinfect.
    I certainly wouldn't drink it, but I have used it to clean old bronze coins, and it works a treat.
  • Apple1996
    Very interesting. I'm not a diet coke fan but I did know a little about pku. I turned down the newborn screen and all other newborn test when my second son was born. The nurses had a fit with me but I just don't believe in picking at new babies like that. If other people want to test their kids then good for them.
  • crazy8000
    Remember reading about that aspartame have a tendency to make our neurons overactive themselves to they burn themselves out (kill themselves) .

    One of the acids you find in most cola brands and even many sodas are a health hazard with regular usage.
  • Alyssa11
    If it’s got no benefit and it ruins my teeth I’m not having it. I completely cut out Diet Coke (or any fizzy drink) from my diet last year. Also yes I say fizzy drink not soda cause I’m British lol
  • Pterodon
    Not only that but aspartame is proven to increase appetites defeating its false dietary claims
    • I LOVE Diet Coke much more than regular Coke.

    • Pterodon

      But it’s worse for you

    • msc545

      Me too - regular coke is too sweet for me.

  • ArrowheadSW
    Drinking the aspartame containing diet soft drinks makes me feel weird so I avoid them when I can. I like the ones with sucralose.
  • Iron_Man
    That’s all hearsay I drink diet sodas all the time I don’t have any problems
    • If you had PKU it would be a huge problem, but if you don't. . . there are people who will tell you that every artificial sweetener known to man is bad for you, and I'm sure that some of them are harmful, but I doubt that things like stevia and monk fruit are harmful. And even if Spenda has SOME bad side effects, those must be balanced against the problems that people would have if they drank regular Coke and gained weight.

    • Iron_Man

      My favorite is diet Mountain Dew Pepsi zero and Diet Coke And orange Crush zero. I can’t be drinking regular sodas because my sugar levels are high. If you watch undisputed the sports talk show in the morning on ESPN you’ll see that skip Bayless runs 8 miles a day and he swears by diet Mountain Dew and he calls it the breakfast of champions LOL... And he’s perfectly fine he’s like 70 something years old and looks great. No balding not fat and not worn out looking

  • Feelicks
    Hmm that's pretty interesting. A course of gene therapy could fix it too I suppose but would it be worth the risk and effort when a special diet is all that's required?

    As for the disease is there only one grade of severity? Are there similar diseases for other amino acids?
  • loves2learn
    Yup. If someone is predisposed to that birth defect they need to watch out.
  • FunkyMonkee
    Diet ANYTHING is dangerous!!! Besides, it has the exact opposite effect!!
  • CubsterShura
    I don't drink any soft drinks at all for over 5 years and I don't miss it. Not even diet coke.
  • Laciandmaci
    Interesting thanks for the helpful info!!! I appreciate that I love learning new things!
  • FlowerSeed
    I would like to try diet Coke with some vanilla ice cream
  • NightOwl8801
    Diet drinks usually contain a product that is very similar to what an undertaker uses at a funeral home to embalm someone
  • zagor
    I think diet drinks taste like shit. I am not going to drink unhealthy crap I don't even like.
  • Likes2drive
    Very informative, never knew about that but I never drink anything diet, I hate how it tastes
  • Rok4bakAR
    Why is it C0ViD jabs dangerous? people don’t care just follow.
    • msc545

      They aren't dangerous. What is dangerous is your thinking.

    • Rok4bakAR

      My people perish for lack of knowledge.

    • msc545

      I believe that. Educate yourselves.

  • bulletbob555
    Wow that is a full explanation of that problem.
    My problem for anyone drinking aspartame I its converted into fomaldyhide and settles in our legs. Some doctors have decided that it's causing many ailments. One being fibromyalgia. I read the article and cut it out of my diet. Previously I was told I was pre-diabetic. Therefore i was drinking diet soda. When I read it I was suffering from complicaions of stepping on a nail and having PAD. I was having great difficulties walking standing. I spent 3 years in bad or on the couch. After cutting out aspertane I eventually saw improvement in my condition. I feel it was a major contributor to my problem. I go with stevia now.
  • mrkdvsn
    I believe this applies to ALL "diet" drinks. I've heard it's the artificial sweeteners that are the danger
  • msc545
    I guess if you have PKU and live in the US, you would already know about it. Hopefully.
  • NYlatefun
    All coke is terrible for you! I don’t even drink soda.
  • princeofromance
    Don't I know.
  • legalboxers
    funny.. a cop I knew drank bottles of that crap
  • Anonymous
    you also forgot to mention that aspartame causes brain cancer
  • Anonymous
    The artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks causes brain tumors and so does the process used for decaffeinating drinks including coffee.
  • Anonymous
    Diet soda taste like shit
  • Anonymous
    They could have added chemical X 😂
  • Anonymous
    Another condition to add to my list of hyperfixations. I love learning about medical conditions! /G
  • Anonymous
    Aspartame has been leading to heart issues for years it's found it most diet soda.