Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Don't mess with my diet Coke

As a child, I always thought the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished” was silly. I’d think, “Well, we shouldn’t do good deeds to be praised, but certainly doing good won’t get us punished.” Ah, the stupidity of childhood…

That phrase certainly came to mind on Monday morning as I was helping with registration at my kids’ school.** I asked the lunch lady if she stocked any diet drinks because my first diet Coke of the morning was wearing off and I’d certainly like another.

Based on her response, you would have thought I’d asked for a bottle of bourbon with the current issue of Playboy on the side.

Her eyes got wide and she stuck her finger in my face and said, “That will kill you! There is no way I’d stock that. These kids are better off drinking the real thing. You shouldn’t be drinking it, either!”

She then went on a 15 minute tirade on the evils of diet Coke, NutraSweet and aspartame, and how I’m going to get multiple sclerosis if I continue drinking it. I offered the comment, “You know, I’ve ingested so much diet Coke already that if I was going to get MS, I’m pretty sure I’d already be in a wheelchair.” I thought it was a joke. I was quite mistaken.

Some of the other moms heard the lecture and decided to get in on the act. One told me she actually lost weight when she stopped drinking it, and I should give it a try.

After I picked my jaw off the floor, they started back in. Here’s a run-down of what they claimed aspartame will do: cause Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, lupus, birth defects, brain cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, and that it coverts to formaldehyde if drunk warm.

Then lunch lady lowered the ultimate boom: she actually said Jesus was talking to me through her and I really needed to pray to see if God wants me drinking diet Coke.

I’m skeptical of anyone saying God is telling them something to tell me. It makes me think of that horrid preacher on TV who wears yellow suits and inserts gibberish into his sermons claiming to be speaking in tongues, and asks the viewer to place a hand on the screen so he can impart God’s blessing through the set. The ways some Christians distort the words and work of God is an atrocity. But that’s another story…

Anyway, I don’t doubt the lunch lady could have wisdom from which I could learn. I want to be open to gleaning knowledge from my elders and those around me. I highly doubt, however, that God is that concerned about diet Coke.

I tried to deflect the continuing onslaught of words with a bit of humor but nothing worked. I finally just agreed with her that I would pray and do some research. This did not stop me, however, from asking a woman headed to Wal-Mart to bring back the biggest, coldest diet Coke she could find.

Quite honestly, I’m glad I agreed to the research. Seems everything those aspartame-haters were spouting came from an email that a quick check on http://www.snopes.com/ debunked (http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/aspartame.asp ).

Check out this site: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qa-adf9.html This is the Q/A section of the FDA where the concern of aspartame’s safety is addressed.

Don’t want to trust the FDA? No problem. How about the Mayo Clinic? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-diet/NU00592 I’m quite inclined to trust these folks, who posit aspartame is indeed a safe alternative to sugar. They even have this paragraph on the site: Artificial sweeteners are often the subject of stories in the popular press and on the Internet, claiming that they cause a variety of health problems, including cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, however, there's no scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer. And numerous studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are safe for the general population.

So not only do the Mayo Clinic and the National Cancer Institute agree that artificial sweeteners are safe, so does Time Magazine, in an article entitled A Web of Deceit: http://tinyurl.com/yqym9y

If those sites aren’t enough for the diet Coke-haters, I’d like to see them argue against MIT. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough knowledge in my pinkie to question anyone smart enough to go to MIT. Here’s their site: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1998/aspartame-0916.html

So not only is the saying about good deeds and punishment true, so is the one about not believing everything you read. And for crying out loud, don’t believe everything you read in an email! You just might end up sounding like a complete idiot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to print out my finding so I can take them to the lunch lady later today. I think I’ll take her a nice, cold diet Coke as well.

**We homeschool, but the kids go to school one day a week where they can take courses, like math, that I'm not so keen on teaching. They love the day away from home and I like that they have other teachers grading them. It's a win-win situation for all of us.