Death Is Easy

Russell Madden

Freedom As If It Mattered

As If
It Mattered
Russell Madden

Guardian Project

The Guardian
Russell Madden


Russell Madden





Russell Madden



What are you most afraid of? A global warming disaster? Terrorists shooting you down in the street? Your airplane crashing on a flight to Detroit?

Pshaw. Nah. What you should really fear is...dum-ta-dah!...DIET COLA!!!!!! Bwah-hahaha!!! Aiiieeee!


Sadly, way too many people believe the oddest things. Worse, they will worry about aspects of life that are, at worst, trivial. Objective, realistic risk-assessment is a skill at which most citizens, well, er, suck. Even if a “danger” exists in regard to “X,” folks tend to misinterpret what that “danger” means and how they should respond.

I rarely drink coffee. Most of the caffeine I ingest (ahhh...caffeine.......) comes from either iced tea or diet colas. Twenty years ago in grad school, I consumed the real deal — full-sugared pop with caffeine, often Jolt cola straight from the fountain machine of a drug store across the street from the U of Arizona — but with age comes a lowered metabolism and less exercise. Since I drink a lot of soda, I long ago migrated to diet soft drinks to save the calories. Now, I never claimed this stuff is health food. I don’t push it on others as an option, even very obese others. If they don’t want it, fine. No skin off my ba—, er, nose.

A few of those others, though, apparently take it as their duty to “save” me.


“Formaldehyde! Formic acid! Acidosis! Neurotoxicity! Methanol! Phenylalanine!Poison!” Run for your lives!


Aspartame is alleged to “cause” such dire conditions as MS, lupus, Gulf War syndrome, brain tumors, and diabetes. Given the millions of gallons of diet pop consumed over the years, Americans are doomed.

Or they would be if this nonsense were true. (See here for some fact checking.) Well, it is true that aspartame does, indeed, metabolize to methanol. A 300 ml can of diet pop gives you about 20 mg. But, as I tell my students, without a baseline or other examples for comparison, a raw number is virtually meaningless as a guide for risk assessment.

So. What’s the scoop? Well, a similar amount of fruit juice results in 40 mg of methanol. Twice as much! Aiieeee! Wait! There’s more. Booze ratchets this up to 60 to 100 mg, three to five times as much. Urg. Not beer....!?! Oh, no! That can of soda produces 100 mg of phenylalanine in your body...while an egg loads you up with 300 mg; a glass of milk, 500 mg; and 900 mg for a big ol’ hamburger.

Oh. So sad. So bad...not.

The gullible who read idiotic claims that “aspartame kills!” obviously get something out of believing this tripe. What, I don’t know. As I told one scientifically illiterate person who jumped on my case about my consumption of diet cola, I don’t know why anyone would want to live her life being fearful of everything (“Life is scary!”), but I can guarantee, it will not be diet soda pop that kills her. Maybe being overweight and getting no real exercise might — just might — result in graver risks of mortality than drinking diet pop.

In the meantime, bottoms up...

(from Don't Get Me Started!, 8-10-07)