Diet soda is falling out of favor due to the growing unpopularity of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose (Splenda). PepsiCo even replaced the aspartame in Diet Pepsi with Splenda in 2015 in an effort to win back customers who’ve become wary of aspartame’s health effects — but it clearly didn’t work.

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At the time, PepsiCo said the No. 1 request by its customers was to remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi.1 Senior vice president of Pepsi’s flavors unit, Seth Kaufman, noted, “Diet cola drinkers in the U.S. told us they wanted aspartame-free Diet Pepsi.”2
However, annual per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in 2015 was 650 eight-ounce servings, the lowest rate since 1985, according to a report from industry-tracking group Beverage Digest.3
PepsiCo had the steepest decline — a 3.1 percent volume loss — and their Diet Pepsi product was particularly hit hard with a nearly 6 percent drop. In the first quarter of 2016, Diet Pepsi sales fell even more, declining 10.6 percent, according to Beverage Digest.4
To save their slumping sales, and please customers who apparently disliked the taste of the aspartame-free Diet Pepsi, the company is reintroducing “Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend” — i.e., Diet Pepsi sweetened with aspartame — to the market.
2 of 3 Diet Pepsi Varieties to Contain Aspartame
Classic Diet Pepsi is slated to come back to the market in September 2016, featuring a light blue can. In a silver can will be regular Diet Pepsi, sweetened with Splenda.
There’s also Pepsi MAX, which comes in a black can and is going to be reintroduced in the U.S. as Pepsi Zero Sugar. This, too, will contain aspartame.5 Crystal Pepsi, which first made its debut in the ‘90s, will also be making a comeback in 2016, at least temporarily.
The clear soda does not contain caffeine or phosphoric acid and is perceived to be healthier than typical dark-colored sodas. Its limited reintroduction, timed not coincidently amidst dropping sales, is likely an attempt to test the market to see if more health-conscious consumers will take the crystal-clear bait.6
Unfortunately, all of this relabeling and reintroducing is missing the point, which is not only that soda is detrimental to your health — no matter what shade, flavor or color — but also that diet soda by any name is likely even worse.

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Aspartame May Lead to Glucose Intolerance and Diabetes
Many people who are overweight or obese also struggle with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and consequently choose artificial sweeteners over sugar, believing the former to be a healthier choice.
Yet, studies have found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may lead to weight gain7 and glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.8
Unbeknownst to many, aspartame has been found to increase hunger ratings compared to glucose or water and is associated with heightened motivation to eat (even more so than other artificial sweeteners like saccharin or acesulfame potassium).9
For a substance often used in “diet” products, the fact that aspartame may actually increase weight gain is incredibly misleading.
A recent study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism also found that consuming aspartame may be associated with greater glucose intolerance, particularly for people who are obese. According to the study:10

“This study provides evidence that consumption of aspartame may be associated with greater diabetes risk in individuals with higher adiposity. Aspartame is reported to be associated with changes in gut microbiota that are associated with impairments in insulin resistance in lean and obese rodents.

We observe that aspartame was related to significantly greater impairments in glucose tolerance for individuals with obesity … ”

Ninety-two percent of independently funded studies found aspartame may cause adverse effects, including depression and headaches.15 A study also found the administration of aspartame to rats resulted in detectable methanol even after 24 hours, which might be responsible for inducing oxidative stress in the brain.15
Aspartame is made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. But the phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness.
That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.
When aspartame is in liquid form, it breaks down into methyl alcohol, or methanol, which is then converted into formaldehyde and represents the root of the problem with aspartame.
In short, both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals.
Humans have the same number of peroxisomes in comparable cells as non-human animals, but human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause birth defects.

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