Can Diet Coke Kill You?

According to a UK documentary, “Sweet Misery,” the National Cancer Institute identified a significant and impressive increase in brain cancer starting in about 1984. Why did brain cancer shoot up? It looks like it is because of articial sweeteners such as those found in diet drinks and food!


Some scientists identified that in 1983 humans began consuming something never before consumed by humans — aspartame, a chemically created substance acting as a sugar alternative — and this is the cause of the big increase in brain cancer. This is an artificial sweetener used in diet drinks, food, and even on the table in most restaurants (i.e. NutraSweet, Crystallite, Equal).


Increase in Aspartame, Increase in Brain Cancer

According to the documentary, in 1984, one year after its introduction, 6.9 million pounds of aspartame were consumed by Americans. In the next year, that even doubled. It continued increasing into the ’90s. This is all at the same time that brain cancer was increasing the most.

From 1984-1987, other cancers outside the brain basically remained the same or declined. However, brain cancer rates shot up.

The parallels are undeniable and chilling, if you look at the brain cancer issue alone.

Beyond the scientific research, by 1988, over 80% of food and additive complaints volunteered to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were concerning aspartame products. The complaints were not as serious as “I have brain cancer,” perhaps, but it was another sign that something was wrong.

The effects of aspartame can be varied, but the majority of the issues are neurological and relating to the brain.

Why does aspartame have this effect?

Scientists think that it is because 10% of the chemical substance, after congestion, becomes free methyl alcohol (wood alcohol), a poison. As one scientist in the film states, it is a “real poison.” Another says, “the poisonous effect of methyl alcohol and its methyl esters are well-known.” Even small amounts of this poison can lead to blindness and death. The “miniscule” amounts in our common foods and drinks seem to lead to cancer.

Bottom line — maybe it’s time to cut artificial sweeteners out of your diet!

Scientists confirmed that the increase in brain cancers is not due to technological advancements that made diagnosing brain cancer easier and it is not a result of changes in disease classifications.

via YouTube

Image Credit: niallkennedy via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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25 thoughts on “Can Diet Coke Kill You?”

  1. This is interesting and certainly compelling. However, you can’t really say that cancer “seems” to be “clearly” due to artificial sweeteners – it either “seems” that way (which it does), meaning that we can’t say for sure, or it “clearly” is, meaning that scientific consensus says it is (right now it doesn’t).

    Having said that, I think I’m going to start cutting back on my gum chewing!

  2. Don’t throw all artificial sweeteners under the bus because aspartame is bad.

    Sacharine is a real boon to diabetics and others who need to lower their sugar consumption and over the last 90+ years of use it has been shown to be relatively benign.

    A lot of people use it as a spice.

    Remember, aspartame is only one of a number of artificial sweetener choices.

    I always worry when writers make such a large ill-considered leap.

  3. So the basis of this, er, “argument”, is a supposed correlation between the introduction of Aspartame and an increase in the incidence of brain cancer?

    Those who are scientifically literate understand of course that correlation does not equal causation.

    Anyway, the National Cancer Institute rejects the claimed correlation, noting that the increase began 8 years before the introduction of Aspartame and “occurred primarily in people age 70 and older, a group that was not exposed to the highest doses of aspartame since its introduction.”

  4. “Scientists think that it is because 10% of the chemical substance, after congestion, becomes free methyl alcohol (wood alcohol), a poison.”

    congestion? or digestion?

  5. The National Cancer Institute site ( has no news articles reflecting any issues with artificial sweeteners in the past 10 years. Why draw a correlation in your headline between the NCI and an independent documentary done by someone in the UK about the FDA’s approval process of Aspartame? You usually are more accurate than this.

  6. It is so important that information like this is brought up to the public for consideration and further research. The incidence of cancer continues to grow, the toxicity involved in curing cancer as well as the cost of trying to cure cancer is also very troublesome. I thank you for writing this article and allowing others to consider better choices for better health.

  7. Thank you for the comments.

    @the people referencing the NCI webpages: thank you for including this info. i don’t know which research is more accurate, but this certainly brings more into the whole debate.

    @cokeaddict: “after being swallowed”

    @Jen B: thank you. to be honest, i was just citing the video here and didn’t go further into their sources. i trusted they were correct. i’m not sure where the info came from, but imagine they got it from somewhere (maybe in past NCI documents). thank you and good points. i adjusted the headline to make it more clear :)

    @Yolanda: thank you :) i agree. thank you

  8. Might I suggest trying Zevia. Zevia is the first all natural, 0 calorie, 0 glycemic index, stevia sweetened soda. This soda was created by a triathlete, marathon runner and mountain climber. They wanted a no guilt, delicious diet soda. There’s no aspartame & no Splenda. It comes in 6 delicious flavors including Cola, Orange, Twist, Ginger Root Beet, Ginger Ale and Black Cherry.

    – Margaret
    PS If you or any bloggers would like to try Zevia to review, please email me at margaret at zevia dot com.

  9. forgedabout the safety and stop touching it for the nasty nasty flavor of it. Thats far enough to go!

    Cancer Inst? can you say conjob?

    And lets mention Acesulfame, the other ubiquitous fake sweet taste. Although this is not how its presented in wikipedia, I have heard it was developed not for a sweetner, but as a nerve gas agent, but failed to work well…. I can’t quote this, so it must be taken as “folktale.” until such time as can clear it up.

    I find both these in things that should not even be sweetened. The protein powders I use, if unflavored, are free. But the flavored- choc, van, banana, strawberry are all loaded and the clercks tell me its always this way in all liines of product. Yechy

  10. @Zachary – thank you for clearing up the headline. I love how many people are commenting and researching on this topic. My personal experience with aspartame began when my mom, a research scientist, told our family we would not be using aspartame but would stick with saccharine until she knew more. I’ve never drank too much of anything containing aspartame because of her. Thank goodness diet tonic water still uses saccharine as a sweetener.

  11. As has already been noted correlation is NOT the same as causation.

    I do note, however, that the reference to Diet Coke in the title can only have been chosen by this author for the “shock value.” Being the most recognized brand in the world seems to paint a huge red target on this company. Why don’t you say “Crystal Light(R) can Kill You” or any other food/bev product that uses aspartame. Note also that the picture is of the #1 selling diet beverage in the world. Coke has also been a leader in formulating new alternative sweeteners, which IMO is a good thing. After all if it weren’t for them we’d still be stuck with saccharine.

    I guess the author thinks that diabetics should be stuck with water and unsweetened tea as the only alternatives.

  12. brief aspartame — 11% methanol part becomes formaldehyde in humans: Rich Murray 2009.09.29

    over 100 mg methanol impurity per liter wine becomes formaldehyde and then
    formic acid in humans — co-factors for “morning after” hangovers — folic
    acid protects most people: Rich Murray 2009.09.28

    There is the same level of methanol from the 11% methanol part
    of the aspartame molecule in 2 L [ 6 cans ] aspartame beverages.

    Dermatitis. 2008; 19(3): E10-E11.
    © 2008 American Contact Dermatitis Society
    Formaldehyde, Aspartame, and Migraines: A Possible Connection
    Sharon E. Jacob; Sarah Stechschulte
    Published: 09/17/2008


    Aspartame is a widely used artificial sweetener that has been linked
    to pediatric and adolescent migraines.
    Upon ingestion, aspartame is broken, converted, and oxidized into
    formaldehyde in various tissues.
    We present the first case series of aspartame-associated migraines
    related to clinically relevant positive reactions to formaldehyde
    on patch testing.

    formaldehyde, aspartame, and migraines, the first case series, Sharon
    E Jacob-Soo, Sarah A Stechschulte, UCSD, Dermatitis 2008 May:
    Rich Murray 2008.07.18
    Friday, July 18, 2008

    consider co-factors (methanol, formaldehyde, and protective
    folic acid), re UK FSA test of aspartame in candy bars on
    50 reactors, Stephen L Atkin, Hull York Medical School:
    Rich Murray 2009.09.29
    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

  13. “to be honest, i was was just citing the video here and didn’t go further into their sources. i trusted they were correct.”
    Therein lies the main problem with this post. You didn’t take any time to understand where your sources got their information, and fallaciously concluded that Aspartame causes brain cancer, and that diet coke will kill you if you drink it. Not only does the supposed correlation disagree with the actual data, but such a correlation is hardly a demonstration of causation. A million other things happened in those same years, does that mean they all cause brain cancer too?
    Political history does not establish that aspartame causes brain cancer either – to do that you need science and in this your argument is severely lacking.

  14. Why do I always look at the pro-aspartame posts on these lists as being by industry shills. Never mind the cover up by our own complicit FDA, just click on the linked website and see what a student that questioned aspartame’s cancer connection was able to prove on her own.


  15. I drink a lot of Diet Coke… I’m not too worried about brain cancer. Plus, I have a feeling I’m gonna have a nice long life. :D

  16. Thank you for your kind reference to my work on aspartame disease. If you review my most recent published studies, the magnitude of the problem will be even more striking, particularly the transgenerational effects.

    Best wishes!

  17. Great article – thank you for helping to get the word out. Aspartame has been well established to cause illness and disability. “Sweet Misery” is the story of one woman’s fight back to health and wellness after suffering from aspartame poisoning that crippled her for several months. “Sweet Remedy” is the sequel, addressing aspartame, msg and other additives. If your readers want to learn more or obtain the documentaries, they can visit

    Any time there is a good article about the dangers of aspartame I notice it brings out comments from industry shills. These people should watch the two films mentioned above and hear the testimony of people like neuroscientist Russell Blaylock, MD, and other doctors and research scientists.

  18. I think most things, if not held in moderation can do bad things to your body. So I’m sure 25 Diet Cokes a day could kill you, just the sweeteners and caffeine alone can not be good for you. But one a week.. it’s probably ok. And there are conflicting articles here– some say cancer some say no.

  19. Interesting and not toaly surprising financial and political associations. One has to remember it took a long time for officialdom to recognise a link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. Some even say that the proof is still not 100%. We know where there interests lie. One thing is however for sure. If we are going to play with our chemistry balance through a high intake of nicotene, aspartame or others, our health will suffer.
    Its just plain common sense.

  20. The National Cancer Institute in the US say no link ( The European Food Safety Authority say no link. Truth is that there are many things that have appeared since 1973 when the rise in brian tumors began (8 years prior to the approval of aspartame) – mobile phones, the internet use, brain-training, new shampoos, zillions of things you could point the finger at with just as much justification. Read the facts first hand don’t rely on Mulder and Scully’s interpretation of them alone – The Truth Is Out There.

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