Diet soda sales have fallen off significantly in the U.S., and when Pepsico asked consumers what they didn’t like, aspartame was at the top of the list.

“It’s literally the number-one complaint we’ve heard from diet-cola consumers as to why they’re drinking less and less diet cola,” Seth Kaufman, a senior vice president for Pepsico says.

Beginning in August, a newly formulated aspartame-free Diet Pepsi will hit the market. The drink will be sweetened with a blend of sucralose, known by the trade name Splenda, and another sweetener known as Ace K.

The FDA has long said that aspartame is safe in the amounts commonly used by the food industry.

This year, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reiterated this conclusion regarding the safety of aspartame in its report released in February. The panel did, however point to a “possible association between aspartame and risk of some blood cancers (non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma) in men, indicating the need for more long-term human studies.”

The committee also wrote that there was not enough evidence to “draw any conclusions on the relationship between aspartame consumption and headaches.”

A article published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2013 suggested that “frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes (such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin) may also be at increased risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

And, the findings of the San Antonio Heart Study point to a connection between diet soda consumption and weight gain over time.

However, there are also studies that suggest zero-calorie sweetened beverages, including diet soda may help people maintain their weight.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital found that overweight teens did well fending off weight gain when they switched from sugary drinks to zero-calorie ones like diet soda.

With such a mixed bag of research, it’s not surprising that some diet soda drinkers have been rethinking what they drink.

It will be interesting to see how consumers respond to Diet Pepsi’s swap from aspartame to a blend of other artificial sweeteners.
April 24, 2015

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