Why are sales of diet coke starting to fizzle and sputter a bit flatter compared to sales of regular coke? Check out the October 16, 2013 Boston Globe news article by Candice Choi, "Sales of Diet Coke starting to fizzle." The question of why Diet Coke, the country’s number two soda, might be losing some of its pop and crackle may be due to all the reports on how artificial sweeteners affect different people's bodies and reactions. Or could it also be about taste as the reason why diet Coke's snap is down?
During a conference call with analysts on October 15, 2013, a Coca-Cola executive explained to the media that Diet Coke was “under a bit of pressure” because of people’s concerns over its ingredients, alluding to the growing wariness of artificial sweeteners in recent years. It's not just about Coke, almost any diet food or beverage artificially sweetened is under scrutiny of the public and the health news reports, let alone the research studies.
On the other hand, Diet Coke is still the second most popular in the United States after knocking Pepsi from that perch in 2010. The company sells twice as much regular Coke as Diet Coke. So instead of using a different sweetening agent, the company is investing in boosting Diet Coke’s performance with recent promotions using celebrities to promote the beverage instead of emphasizing the health studies. It's because advertising executives know that if they show a photo of a good-looking celebrity on a product, more people will buy the product whether it's a beverage or a car.
Soda has been under fire from health advocates
One study after another for the past decade has revealed how synthetic sweeteners might affect the human body. At the same time, most people are cutting back on their sugar addiction or cravings. One possible result of the push to healthier drinks like clean water may have influenced the trend that diet soda sales are falling at a faster rate than regular soda, according to Beverage Digest, a publication that tracks the industry. According to the statistics, in 2012, sales volume for Coke fell 1 percent, while Diet Coke fell 3 percent. Pepsi fell 3.4 percent, while Diet Pepsi fell 6.2 percent.
So is the trend more emphasis on drinking water to avoid obesity and metabolic issues if the human body might respond similar to artificial sweeteners as it does to sweets, even if the artificial sweets don't cause an insulin release in response to glucose? There's no glucose in most artificial sweeteners. The big issue is that diet beverages usually use aspartame.
And there are so many complaints online about aspartame, that some people are beginning to wonder what's real and what's the Wild West out there of claims. See, "Aspartame and its effects on health" and "Reported Aspartame Toxicity Effects - Food and Drug Administration." Or see, "Coca-Cola’s Continued Efforts at Damage Control—New Ad Campaign Defends Aspartame" and "Diet Soda May Do More Harm Than Good." On the other hand, industry has also distributed fact sheets on the topic to its bottlers and retailers who sell Coke products.
The Food and Drug Administration says aspartame can be safely used in foods as a sweetener, and the American Cancer Society has said that most studies using people have found that aspartame is not linked to an increased risk of cancer
What's happened regardless of the scientific claims or research is that in the USA, more people are looking for natural, organic, and fewer sweetened beverages and foods. Coca-Cola has been following the increasing trend. On the other hand, the company is working on producing sodas made with natural, low-calorie sweeteners. But the public wants to know what those sweeteners are or will be.
If stevia is the answer for some people, the company also has launched a version of its namesake drink sweetened with stevia in Argentina this summer. Stevia comes from a plant of the same name. But here in the USA, unless you're in a health food store, you may find it difficult to see a soda sweetened with stevia, or at least stevia without the added dextrose or maltodextrin type of sweetener added to the stevia. You even have some companies adding maltodextrin, a type of sugar to stevia to make whey powder even sweeter, as if people couldn't think of adding fresh fruit if they wanted a sweet drink.
This common additive is an easily digestible carbohydrate made from rice, corn, or potato starch (celiacs, beware — it can also be derived from barley or wheat). It's made by cooking down the starch, and then acid and/or enzymes break the starch down even further. Some tooth decay and other dental problems have been attributed to the consumption of maltodextrin.
Also headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, upset stomach, fatigue and weakness can all become side effects of maltodextrin. Too many types of whey powders add maltodextrin and stevia to make the powder sweeter, instead of letting people decide whether or not they want a sweet protein (whey) powder. While this doesn't apply to Coca Cola, it makes people wonder whether they need all that sweetness in their mouth (and on their teeth).
As for Coca-Cola Company, the corporation's sales volume for regular, full-calorie Coke rose 2 percent in North America in its latest quarterly results reported on October 15, 2013. Coke Zero, which is made with artificial sweeteners and targeted more toward men, rose 5 percent. For other brands of soda, overall soda volume for the region was flat, according to the October 16, 2013 Boston Globe news article by Candice Choi, "Sales of Diet Coke starting to fizzle." Maybe it's time to return to that clear, clean glass of water.
Is diet soda linked to an increase in the incidence of strokes?
About three years ago, back in 2011, the headlines reported that diet soda may be linked to an increase in the incidence of strokes. But is it a chemical in the diet soda or is it the lifestyle of diet soda drinkers who may also eat high salt diets and drink the diet soda to quench their salt-induced thirst? See the article, Diet Soda May Raise Odds of Vascular Events; Salt Linked to Stroke.
The study done in 2011 has been presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference reported a link between the amount of diet soda someone drinks and the risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Nutritionists really want to know whether the link actually can be interpreted by the general public as a conclusion.
The outline of the study, actually started in 2003, reports that, "A total of 2,564 people in the study were asked about their intake of sodas (among other questions) at the start of the study." What nutritionists want to know is how the link relates to the salt intake and lifestyle of the participants.
The outline of the study also notes that, "After nine years, 559 cardiovascular events had occurred, and those who had reported drinking diet soda every day had a 60% higher rate of these events, which included various forms of stroke as well as heart attacks." See the February 9, 2011 ABC news article, Diet Soda Linked to Heart Attack, Stroke Risk - ABC News.
Also see, Diet soda, sodium linked to stroke risk - The Clinical Advisor. Headlines also said that if you're a diet soda drinker, you have 50 percent higher risk factor of stroke. But could it also apply to the lifestyle of diet soda drinkers who also may eat a high salt diet along with the diet soda? See the article, Diet Soda, Salt May Raise Stroke Risk | Psych Central News. If you don't know what to drink, than water may be right for you instead of reaching for a soda. But so many times, what you choose to drink with food relates to your age demographic and how you connect what you eat or drink with later health outcomes.