I’ve received many emails asking for guidance around healthy drink choices. Since studies show people drink one-third of their daily calories, and many beverages contain harmful ingredients while others contain health benefits, it’s important to have the information to sift through the options and make the best choices.

Over the coming weeks, we are going to look at some popular beverages and today we are going to begin by talking about soda — and why diet soda is even worse. Even if you don’t drink any soda, this is one you’ll want to read through and understand as loved ones around you are likely part of the masses consuming soda periodically or on a regular basis and it’s about much more than just sugar and calories.

If you have taken a child to the dentist recently, you may well have seen an empty Coke bottle with an inch or so of sugar on the bottom. Dentists are using this visual to get kids’ attention as to how much sugar is contained in soda. At nine teaspoons, it is hard for an adult to imagine taking a glass of iced tea or coffee and putting nine teaspoons of sugar in before drinking. But that’s what is contained in soda. No wonder it provides a sugar rush and raises insulin levels in the body only to have the come crashing back down later. Soda has been linked to obesity and diabetes and it’s no surprise. But in most cases, it’s not even sugar that’s the real problem; it’s the fact that the sweetener being used is high fructose corn syrup.

As we learned in the special report on sugar you received when you subscribed, high fructose corn syrup has been shown to interfere with leptin signaling, or the cell mechanism that lets you know when you are full so that you stop eating. Fructose is also metabolized in the liver, much like alcohol, which leads to an undue burden on the organ that has to detoxify our bodies from all the harmful toxins we take in. We are meant to handle about 15 grams of fructose, which occurs naturally in fruits, not the 50-70+ grams a day many are ingesting due to soda and processed food consumption.

But there is more to soda than just high sugar.

In order to get that lovely brown or green color, soda includes dyes that are often listed on harmful ingredient lists and additives to create flavor and preserve shelf life that we should all avoid. More than just empty calories, these ingredients have actually been shown to cause harm. One such carcinogen is benzene, which is created when ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and sodium benzoate are added as preservatives.

While the FDA has known since 1990 that benzene is created by this combination and has been found in soda at levels significantly higher than the maximum allowed in drinking water, it was not until 2006 that pressure was put on manufacturers to address this health concern. It took a class action lawsuit against the biggest offenders (benzene levels varied significantly by manufacturer and brand) to require reformulation to bring benzene levels down. (The longer soda sits in a warehouse or your garage and the higher the exposure to heat, the more benzene is created and the greater the potential for cancer-causing impact.)

Though many manufacturers have reformulated their products, some were not required to and continue to follow their same practices. In addition, there is no FDA standard for benzene in soft drinks (as there is for benzene in drinking water), so there is no legal mandate to achieve a certain consistent minimum standard in soda products.

Another problem with soda is that it contains phosphoric acid, which is known to leach calcium from the bones and is connected to osteoporosis. It’s heavily acidic and can shift the Ph balance of your digestive tract dramatically. In fact, most soda has a Ph similar to vinegar, which is not something we would typically drink. The acidity is then covered up by the excessive sugar to balance it. But imagine what drinking vinegar might do to the lining of your stomach!

We need an alkaline environment to detoxify and shifting to a highly acid state can wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal tract and lead to digestive concerns. Phosphoric acid is commonly used as a rust remover and if you are at all in doubt, consider the lawsuit filed against Pepsi earlier this year when a man claimed to find a dead mouse in his can of Mountain Dew.

Pepsi’s defense against the suit countered that it was impossible that the mouse could have made its way into the can at the bottling plant because the acid in the soda would have decomposed the mouse before it reached the consumer, so it had to have entered after opening in order to be found intact!

And not to pick on Pepsi, but Pepsi recently responded to protesters because one of its research flavoring companies, Senomyx Inc., was using aborted human embryo kidney cells in its flavor enhancer testing. It was maintained that the flavors did not contain the fetal cells, but were only used in the testing process. The end results were originally stated to make their way into Pepsi products in 2013. Due to public pressure from right to life groups, Pepsi has announced it will not use the end products of any of the flavor testing utilizing the fetal cells known as HEK-293. (The HEK line, however, is still slated to be used by other food companies.)

At this point I know some of you are nodding your heads saying, “that’s why I drink diet soda instead.” But diet soda has the same concerns about preservatives and dyes, the same issues around phosphoric acid and benzene: the major difference is the source of the sweetness. I shook my head when I saw the soda products being labeled as now made with “real sugar.” I don’t drink soda and don’t give it to my kids at home. But if they have a soda at a birthday party or special occasion, I encourage them to choose the sugar product over the high fructose corn syrup. And I would take high fructose corn syrup version over a diet soda containing aspartame or sucralose any day. And here’s why.

I am only going to highlight a few of the concerns here as I will devote an entire newsletter to artificial sweeteners soon. But you should know that aspartame (known by the brand names NutraSweet or Equal) is considered by many physicians and scientists to be the single most dangerous food additive used today. It is responsible for more than 75% of all food additive complaints to the FDA and has been linked to triggering or worsening multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue, diabetes, fibromylgia and much more.

It also causes a long list of symptoms such as headaches and migraines, nausea, dizziness, loss of taste, tinnitus, heart palpitations, memory loss, joint pain and even severe seizures and death. Suffice to say it is far worse than MSG or high fructose corn syrup and is on my list of NEVER to ingest substances.

The other major sweetener found in diet sodas is sucralose. Sucralose, marketed as Splenda, is said to be natural, but many scientists say it has more in common with DDT than sugar. It was discovered by scientists seeking a new pesticide: it starts with sucrose but replaces three hydroxyl groups with chlorine atoms. Scientists say that the bonds holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together act like a chlorocarbon; most pesticides are chlorocarbons.

It is not recognized by the body as food and so is not fully absorbed. Your body tries to clear foreign substances by digesting them, but it’s estimated as much as 15% remains intact in the body. (Though ironically, the healthier you are the more of it your body will likely be able to absorb.)

There have been no long-term or large-scale studies done on its safety, and it has been linked to migraines and headaches, dizziness, cramping, stomach pain and more. (Sound familiar?) It’s newer than aspartame so the evidence is still coming in, but for me, it is also on my list of NEVER to be ingested substances.

If the concerns about these artificial sweeteners aren’t enough or you’re not convinced (I’m confident that when I go into it in greater detail in a future newsletter, you will be) for now, there is more evidence to indicate that diet sodas are not the way to go.

The Nurses’ Health Study released in 2009 studied 3256 women and found that those who drank two or more servings of diet soda had a 30% decrease in kidney function compared to those who drank regular soda or other drinks.

Last year, a study by the University of Miami concluded that diet soda led to a 61% increased risk of heart attack and stroke, even after accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol and calories consumed. The study failed to find an increased correlation to cardiovascular events among those who drank regular soda.

And if that’s not enough, many people drink diet soda in an effort to lose or maintain weight. But studies show that people who drink diet soda eat more, and gain more weight over time, than people who don’t. One study showed an increase in waist circumference (a more reliable indicator of pending health concerns that actual weight) of 70% over a ten-year period among those who drank diet soda compared to those who did not. Those who drank two or more a day had an increase in waist circumference that was 500 % greater.

Another study from the University of Texas showed a 41% increase in obesity risk for every diet soda consumed per day.

In addition studies have shown the artificial sweeteners such as saccharine, aspartame and sucralose interfere with cell signaling and sets up the body to expect calories. But when they don’t come, they result in cravings that ultimately lead us to eat more. Purdue University has shown that rats fed an artificial sweetener ate more calories, gained more weight and put on more body fat than rats fed sugar.

So if diet soda isn’t the answer, what is? Studies have shown replacing soda with water leads to health benefits and weight loss. So even replacing one soft drink a day with a tall glass of water could lead to big health benefits. But if water just doesn’t do it for you, we’ll look at other healthy beverage options in the weeks to come.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


Greetings from India! I spent some time around Delhi, saw the Taj Mahal, and am now on my way to Rishikesh, a beautiful town in the Himalayas along the banks of the Ganges, for the International Yoga Festival. This newsletter will be short and will include a few tips until I can write more. If I have internet access, I’ll post on the New England Health Advisory Facebook page while I’m there!

This first tip is one that has come up a few times over the past weeks. A woman at one of the gyms I teach at mentioned it (thanks new subscriber Barb!), and then it came up again when I had lunch with two subscribers (shout out to Steve and Audrey!). So while I know many of you may know this, the fact that it keeps coming up tells me that I need to share it you because many of you may not know.

Did you know that one of the worst things you can do in a restaurant is to have a drink with a lemon or lime in it?

In addition to being heavily sprayed to prevent spoiling, the way they are stored (I’ll spare you the details!) and the number of people who handle them without washing hands from storage to service, make them full of germs. When you drop them in your drink, all the germs and chemicals are released into the liquid. So while I love lemon or lime in my tea or drink, ask for it on the side and squeeze it in yourself instead of letting it float in your drink!

Did you know that Pepsi is launching a brand new soda-for-breakfast beverage disguised as juice? Basically, it’s Mountain Dew with caffeine but it has 5% juice, just enough for Pepsi to be able to label it as a juice. In case soda for lunch and dinner isn’t enough, now you can begin your day with what Pepsi is calling “the ultimate ‘pick me up’ that satisfies all day long.” And because it’s considered juice, it’s eligible for inclusion in school cafeterias!

Did you know that one of the most important minerals you may not be getting enough of is magnesium? We hear all about calcium, but calcium and magnesium are ideally ingested in a 1:1 ratio, in other words, in equal proportion. But we get added calcium in milk, cheese, juice and many other products. Most of us cannot offset that with an equal amount of dark green leafy vegetables and other good sources of magnesium like nuts, legumes, and whole grains.

I’m going to write more about magnesium soon, but its responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body including heart health, bone strength and blood sugar regulation. And that’s just three of its jobs!

While I think most everyone can benefit, if you are older, diabetic, have heart concerns, drink a lot of alcohol, have hormonal imbalance, or trouble sleeping, you especially may benefit form magnesium supplementation. I get some in my whole food multivitamin, but I take extra every day. And if I have trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night, I take an extra 2 before bed. One study estimated that almost all of us are magnesium deficient so if you eat lots of calcium or supplement with calcium, be sure to balance it out with some magnesium as well.

Did you know that a new petition has been filed with the FDA to allow milk producers to add aspartame (yes, that’s right! The same artificial sweetener we read about recently that is responsible for 75% of all food additive complaints to the FDA that has been linked to numerous detrimental health conditions) to milk products WITHOUT having to list it on the label. That means it can be in milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and other dairy products that you – and your children – consume WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE.

I’ve included a small part of the petition below so you can read for yourself their argument that doing so will promote milk consumption in children and reduce childhood obesity by replacing the high fructose corn syrup with aspartame. (Interesting that without admitting it, they are saying that it’s not the flavored milk that’s the problem, it’s the current sweetener, high fructose corn syrup.) Despite the fact that aspartame has been proven to increase weight gain along with all the other health concerns it poses, they want permission to use it freely in dairy products without your knowledge. What is most concerning is the targetting of innocent children with this toxic chemical through school lunch programs.

Even though it has not been approved yet, this yet another reason to avoid ANY product that says low calorie, fat-free, reduced fat, or low sugar. What you lose in a few calories is made up with chemical concerns far worse than the sugar (and even more likely to cause weight gain, the very reason most people are choosing it to begin with!)

Read more about the petition below:

Specifically, the petition requests that FDA amend § 131.110(c)(2) to allow the use of “any safe and suitable” sweetener in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk. [1] The petition also requests that FDA similarly amend the standards of identity for 17 other milk and cream products. Those standards (hereinafter referred to as the “additional dairy standards”) are as follows: Acidified milk (§ 131.111), cultured milk (§ 131.112), sweetened condensed milk (§ 131.120), nonfat dry milk (§ 131.125), nonfat dry milk fortified with vitamins A and D (§ 131.127), evaporated milk (§ 131.130), dry cream (§ 131.149), heavy cream (§ 131.150), light cream (§ 131.155), light whipping cream (§ 131.157), sour cream (§ 131.160), acidified sour cream (§ 131.162), eggnog (§ 131.170), half-and-half (§ 131.180), yogurt (§ 131.200), lowfat yogurt (§ 131.203), and nonfat yogurt (§ 131.206). The petition asks that the standards of identity for these products be amended to provide for the use of any safe and suitable sweetener in the optional ingredients. [2]

IDFA and NMPF request their proposed amendments to the milk standard of identity to allow optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk (e.g., chocolate flavoring added to milk) to be sweetened with any safe and suitable sweetener– including non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame. IDFA and NMPF state that the proposed amendments would promote more healthful eating practices and reduce childhood obesity by providing for lower-calorie flavored milk products. They state that lower-calorie flavored milk would particularly benefit school children who, according to IDFA and NMPF, are more inclined to drink flavored milk than unflavored milk at school. As further support for the petition, IDFA and NMPF state that the proposed amendments would assist in meeting several initiatives aimed at improving the nutrition and health profile of food served in the nation’s schools. Those initiatives include state- level programs designed to limit the quantity of sugar served to children during the school day. Finally, IDFA and NMPF argue that the proposed amendments to the milk standard of identity would promote honesty and fair dealing in the marketplace and are therefore appropriate under section 401 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 341).

The petition acknowledges that the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients in milk is allowed under the existing regulatory scheme, with certain additional requirements. The regulatory framework governing the naming of standardized foods that do not fully comply with the relevant standards of identity changed with the passage of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 and FDA’s rulemaking establishing the Agency’s requirements for foods named by use of a nutrient content claim and a standardized term (§ 130.10 (21 CFR 130.10)). Section 130.10(d) allows the addition of safe and suitable ingredients to a food named by use of a nutrient content claim and a standardized term when these ingredients are used to, among other things, add sweetness to ensure that the modified food is not inferior in performance characteristic to the standardized food even if such ingredients are not specifically provided for by the relevant food standard.

Therefore, while the milk standard of identity in § 131.110 only provides for the use of “nutritive sweetener” in an optional characterizing flavor, milk may contain a characterizing flavor that is sweetened with a non-nutritive sweetener if the food’s label

bears a nutrient content claim (e.g., “reduced calorie”) and the non-nutritive sweetener is used to add sweetness to the product so that it is not inferior in its sweetness property compared to its standardized counterpart. However, IDFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as “reduced calorie” are not attractive to children, and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims. Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk–including flavored milk–as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can “more easily identify its overall nutritional value.”

As to the additional dairy standards, IDFA and NMPF state that administrative efficiency counsels in favor of similar changes. As long as FDA is dedicating resources to amending the standard of identity for milk, they argue, the Agency should also amend the standards for these products at the same time. They state that it is most efficient to consider all of the proposals together. According to the petition, the requested changes to the additional dairy standards present the same issues as the milk standard, and it is therefore appropriate to consider all of the requested changes together.

Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

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