Potato Chips & Diet Sodas: a Disastrous Duo

Chips and diet soda just go together irresistibly. So while we might realize chips are fattening, we grab a diet soda to minimize the damage. Or so we think. The fact is, both of these foods are bad for you, but for two very different reasons.

Potato Chips

Potato chips are fairly representative of the unhealthy food choices we all make. Except for their good taste, there’s really nothing good about them. If you have followed our story about potato chip digestion, here are more reasons to eliminate or at least limit how many potato chips you eat.

Unsavory additives. Many brands of potato chips contain BHT (butylhydroxytoluene), a preservative used by the food industry to prevent rancidity in packaged baked goods and snacks. This fat-soluble chemical is also used in petroleum products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals and can be carcinogenic in large amounts. If that doesn’t deter you from eating potato chips that contain preservatives, maybe the next couple of reasons will.

Trans Fats. The vast majority of trans fats in the diet come from factory-produced partially hydrogenated plant oil. The food industry loves trans fats … they keep foods crisp.  But they also increase the risk of heart disease by clogging arteries, increasing total cholesterol levels and reducing the good cholesterol in the bloodstream.  If you want a healthy heart, only eat (and in moderation) potato chips with labels that say “Trans Fat 0g”.

Empty calories.  The USDA recommends you get a majority of your calories from nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Potato chips are not nutrient-dense, and when you consume 500 of your daily calories from chips (which is pretty easy to do), you’re either taking in extra calories and increasing your risk of obesity or substituting empty calories for healthy foods. Potato chips have lots of calories from added fats, sugars and refined grains; in fact, more than half of a chip’s calories are from fat.

Salt. It’s the salt in chips that makes them so irresistible. But at the same time, it’s the salt in chips that also makes them so unhealthy. Salt is a major cause of high blood pressure which causes excess pressure on blood vessel walls. High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart attack and kidney failure. Studies report that more than 50% of American adults have hypertension or pre-hypertension. Cutting back on potato chips (cutting back on salt) is one way you can avoid being one of them.

It’s easy to be fooled by food labels

Food labels are required on all processed food packages. After reading the list of ingredients, the second thing a health-conscious shopper should look at is the nutrition info. A typical label will list the serving size first, followed by the number of servings per container. The food industry routinely shrinks the serving size so that the number of calories and fat grams don’t look quite so frightening.  Remember, all the nutrition data on the label refers to just a single serving, not the contents of the bag. The label on a bag of Ruffles Original potato chips says the “serving size” is 12 potato chips, which packs 160 calories, 90 of which are calories from fat. How many of us ever stop at 12 potato chips? The taste buds are just getting ramped up!

Diet Sodas.

“Diet” sodas are the ultimate hypocrites of the beverage world. People get hooked on them because they hope the “diet” part will pay off.  The claim of being sugar-free and calorie-free is very seductive. However, that seduction is quite misleading.

Diet sodas don’t keep you from getting fat, they actually have just the opposite effect. You can blame this fact on the toxic cocktail of chemicals that go into diet sodas. The most common diet soda brands include: carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium citrate, “natural” flavors, citric acid and caffeine. Aspartame is a non- saccharine synthetic sweetener that for one reason or another keeps receiving FDA approval under such brand names as NutraSweet, Equal and Tropicana Slim. Of all, aspartame is the worse ingredient in diet sodas (as well as in 6,000 other diet and low-calorie processed food products). Put together into a diet soda, this chemical cocktail is known to cause changes in brain chemistry, cellular communication and basic metabolism. These changes to brain and gut chemistry can make you fat.

Aspartame is a dieter’s worst enemy.

Two studies done by the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found that two daily servings of diet soda, specifically Diet Coke, over time increased waistlines by over three inches, a 70% waistline increase compared to non-diet soda drinkers.

Here’s why. There are logical reasons to explain the fattening (and bloating) effects of aspartame. Aspartame is made up of the toxic chemicals phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol. When you ingest aspartame, it is absorbed from the intestines directly into the liver which then metabolizes – breaks down – the aspartame into its three toxic components. This requires a lot of energy from the liver which means less energy remaining in the liver for metabolism and fat burning. This results in fat storing. Excess fat may build up inside the liver causing fatty liver. When this starts to happen, it is extremely difficult to lose weight.

Aspartame also causes weight gain by other mechanisms:

  • Aspartame causes unstable blood sugar levels, which increases the appetite and causes cravings for sweets and sugar, making it particularly toxic for those with diabetes.
  • It causes fluid retention, making the body look puffy and bloated, as well as increasing the formation of cellulite.

Here are other negatives about the aspartame in diet sodas:

  • Heightened risk of heart failure, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
  • Kidney problems and hip fractures. Researchers have found that women who drank two or more diet sodas a day had as much as a 30% decrease in kidney function.
  • It alters mood. The FDA may approve it, but aspartame is on an EPA list of potentially dangerous chemicals contributing to neurotoxicity, right beneath arsenic. The Academy of Neurology has found that artificially sweetened drinks are connected to a higher risk of depression, at least 30% as much.
  • Aspartame contains free methyl alcohol which is classified as a narcotic. It causes chronic methanol poisoning which affects the dopamine system of the brain and gut, which has the unwanted side effect of causing addiction.

Diet sodas – both seductive and addictive. You may love them, but your body doesn’t.