The Diet Cokes Experiment

I’m going to do another little experiment. I’m going to drink ten DIET Cokes a day for 30 days and see how it affects my health.

This time it the experiment seems a bit more dangerous, since Internet searches for big Diet Coke drinkers turn up a few people who have actually died from massive Diet Coke consumption. Hmm. Maybe. I’d want to know what other health issues the dead people had. But, let’s not get bogged down on the danger of death; I’m doing this for Science. I’m doing it to advance human knowledge.

I’m also doing it because it was the top question I received after doing my first experiment, where I drank regular sugared Coke for a month: “What would happen if they had been Diet? Would you still have gained so much weight?” Regular readers of this blog will remember that I gained 23 pounds in 30 days.

Well, I doubt that I’ll gain that much weight. There just won’t be enough increase in my insulin levels to force my body to store that much fat from my normal diet. But, there are studies that show that drinking artificially sweetened sodas can still cause weight gain, and also that diet soda drinkers still have higher body weights, more Type II diabetes, and more heart disease. And there are other potential health problems.

So, what will I be looking for in this Diet Coke experiment?

1. Possible weight gain – or loss. When I drank 300 sugared Cokes, I gained 23 pounds. I don’t expect to see that weight gain again, but it is possible that I gain weight because of several of the points below. Or I could lose weight. Here’s the interesting thing: studies show that people who drink diet soda are heavier, have more heart disease, and more diabetes, than regular soda drinkers. But, also, people with health problems or weight issues are more likely to choose to drink diet sodas. So, the effect is not causal.

2. Metabolic confusion  – does the body react to diet with any insulin spike, causing weight gain? Some science suggests that because the sweetness of the diet soda tells the body that calories have been ingested, the pancreas releases insulin, which would potentially cause weight gain just as when drinking sugared sodas. But how much insulin? How much weight gain? Or loss?

3. Will the sugar cause hunger and increased eating, or will I avoid hunger by avoiding insulin spikes? Will the sweetness of the diet soda satisfy my appetite, or will it make me hungry for more carbs, as eating real carbs does?

4. A false feeling of healthy eating allowing junk food eating. There is a syndrome called “Diet Coke and Big Mac and Fries.” Basically, the dieter feels free to eat other junk food because they are eating “healthy” by having the Diet Coke. Resulting in eating lots of carbs, having high insulin, and gaining weight.

5. Calcium. Diet Coke is rich in phosphorus, which can deplete bones of calcium. How much of a problem could that be for me in 30 days? With 300 Diet Cokes?

6. Caffeine. There’s a lot of caffeine in Diet Coke. And I’m drinking 10 a day. I do normally drink coffee. (Which I reduce or quit during this experiment.) Also, I didn’t notice major problems with the caffeine when I drank regular Cokes – as long as I finished drinking the Cokes before dinner, or else I would have problems falling asleep. But it could be that Diet Coke has more caffeine, or that the lack of sugar causes a stronger reaction.

7. Asparatame issues. I haven’t noticed any problems or reactions to drinking aspartame-sweetened diet beverages in the past, but this is a lot of diet soda to drink in one month, so it may be enough to cause issues. Although most studies show no problems related to ingesting aspartame, some people do have aspartame sensitivity, which can cause lethargy, headaches, and other ailments. And I’ll be consuming a lot of aspartame.

8. Other changes to my health and body chemistry. I’m having a complete blood workup and physical exam with The Doctors TV Show before I begin drinking 10 Diet Cokes a day, and then I’ll get another blood test and physical when I’m done, so we can see exactly what changes or problems have occurred by drinking 300 Diet Cokes in a month. You should see the amount of blood I gave for the tests yesterday: 7 vials of blood.

9. Changes to the flora and fauna of my gut. Good recent studies indicate that drinking diet soda cause changes to the human gut that may cause weight gain, among other things, and our knowledge of our gut bacteria is in its infancy.

So, a lot of pretty intriguing things to learn by this experiment.  If you drink 10 Diet Cokes a day, you’ll want to follow along. I’ll be taking my blood pressure, body fat, body weight, and fasting blood glucose levels every day, and video blogging about how I feel. I am so excited to see what happens. It’s funny: On the one hand, I really hope to see some dramatic results from the experiment that further our knowledge about how our bodies work and how how we are affected by drinking diet soda. On the other hand, I really just hoDpe that nothing bad happens to me.

That said, let’s go. I start drinking 10 Diet Cokes a day in the morning.


Paleo vs. The American Diet: The fight of the century

In a recent New Yorker article about the huge current popularity of “Paleo” type diets, the author conceded, almost painfully, that the Paleo diet may be the best diet for humans, but, she quickly added, it’s too late: Americans are too far down Carbohydrate Blvd to change.

I hope she’s wrong. This is the biggest health crisis in the human  history, causing more disease and death than any other illness, including Black Plague and Spanish Flu, and she’s saying Screw it, it’s too late.

Well, it’s going to be a big fight, she’s right about that. Because it is a drastic change.  Most people understand that sugar isn’t great for you. But trying to convince those same people that whole grain bread is just as bad? Tough. That organic fruit juice is making their kids fat? It’s a big change.

And the “American Diet” has some real strengths in this battle:

1. Sugar and Bread are literally addictive. Your body goes into craving and hunger mode after you eat bread or drink Coke, and then you crave it the rest of the day.

2. Our food industry has an investment in feeding us sugar and bread. Aisle after aisle of your grocery store are filled with cereal, juices, snacks, breads, sodas, etc. – and those businesses are not going let those sales die easily.

3. On a similar note, the food industry has no interest or investment in providing affordable meats and fats, since it’s set up for growing wheat and sugar and corn. Therefore it’s a real challenge to eat inexpensively while avoiding grains. Right now noodles are cheaper than burger.  But, burger’s not as addictive. You eat the noodles, and now you have to pay for the Twinkie, pie, ice cream, and chips you have afterwards because you’re so hungry.

But, happily, one of the biggest deterrents to Americans learning to eat right has been that U.S. government guidelines have been, up until this week, dead wrong. You could read all you want about Paleo and low-carb diets, but then you’d find some government website that said grains should be the foundation of your diet, and that you should avoid food cholesterol, and what else can you do except trust the government and go back to your bread-eating, noodle-gobbling, banana-chomping ways?

The science is clear now. So clear that the government has finally no choice but to admit: it’s your high insulin that is causing your obesity and health problems, and that high insulin is caused by eating carbs – sugar and grains. If you eat proteins and fat, you’ll get thinner, healthier, and live longer.

We may be on the verge of a revolution. Or at least a monster battle.  And who doesn’t like a good dog fight?

Next post I’m going to talk about how we, as a nation, can make these changes.


The top 5 secret tips I learned by drinking 10 Cokes a day

The goal of my 10 Cokes a day experiment was not to prove that drinking 10 Cokes a day is bad for your health. That’s obvious.

The goal was to help people realize that their current diets may include just as much sugar as you find in 10 Cokes. That’s not obvious to many people, but when you add up the sugar in the coffee,  the orange juice for breakfast, the soda with lunch, the fruit juice in the afternoon, a cookie snack, desert later – PLUS, the added sugar that is all the other foods you ate, PLUS, the naturally-occuring sugar in the fruits and vegetables you ate… and it probably totals even more than 10 Cokes worth of sugar.

YOU are drinking 10 Cokes a day. Okay, so, if you’re convinced – what do you do? That’s really the main question. What do you actually do? It’s not that easy to change.

Here’s 5 tips to help you make some immediate changes in how much soda and other sugar you eat, and how to do it EASY!

By easy, I mean painless. It still takes effort to choose different foods, to make change, but if you follow these tips you won’t have to fight, you won’t be hungry.

Tip 1. Begin by limiting the sugars that you eat in the morning. Later you can work on the second half of the day. Why? Here’s what happens: As soon as you have the first sugar intake, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a glass of orange juice or a morning Coke, your blood sugar and insulin spike – and then a little while later your sugar drops back and you feel HUNGRY. And I don’t know about you, but my will power is not real good when I’m hungry. As soon as I eat the first carbs or sugar of the day, I’m hungry for carbs the rest of the day. If you had orange juice and pancakes for breakfast you’re going to be hungry the rest of the day. Why fight it? Start with breakfast and you’ll gain the power to work on lunch.

Tip 2. Assume that bread and grains and fruit are sugar. They raise your blood sugar just the same way that a Coke does, and you’ll be hungry for more carbs very soon. If you have fruit for breakfast you’ll have a blood sugar spike just the same as if you drank a Coke. It’s true. And you’ll be hungry for more sugar all the rest of day. So, if you want to try and drink less soda later in the day, you have to start by not having bread and fruit for breakfast.

Tip 3. Bring eggs back to breakfast! The committee that creates U.S. dietary guidelines just made some drastic changes in their recommendations: Eggs are now okay! And cut back on sugar. It’s true, the government is now recognizing that dietary cholesterol, like in egg yolks, is not related to blood cholesterol, like in LDL. It’s sugar. And bread. So, in answer to your question from Tip 2: “What do I eat for breakfast?” Eggs. And bacon. And sausage. Smoked salmon. A meat platter. Bring the joy of meat back to your table.

Tip 4. Learn to eat fat. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Fat doesn’t make you fat. It gives you energy without raising your insulin levels, which is what you’re trying to avoid by not eating sugar and bread. So, since the goal is “painless,” and not being hungry or tired, learn to add fat. That egg and smoked salmon breakfast? Smother it with butter and mayonnaise. The fat gives you energy to go straight to lunch. No hunger. High energy.

Tip 5. Hunt for an alternative beverage. A very powerful tool to stopping soda or juice drinking (juice is just as bad as soda) is having something to replace it that you enjoy but doesn’t have sugars. There are flavored sodas that don’t have sweetener, if you’re worried about side effects from diet sodas. (If you are, then follow my next experiment, as I drink 10 Diet Sodas a Day.) Sparkling flavored waters work great. Just plain old water, too, is great. Drink up. But find something – not juice, not milk, not beer – to replace those sodas, and you’ll have all the bases covered

On my next post I’ll discuss some secrets to doing lunch and dinner, too. But I think you’re probably getting the idea.


Pre-diabetes! After only two full days of drinking ten Cokes a day, this morning’s measurement of my fasting blood sugar level showed that I had crossed the line into pre-diabetes! So exciting! 104mg/dL! For a week before, my fasting blood sugar measured consistently at 97mg/dL. So, that’s insulin resistance. Pre-diabetes is insulin resistance, and doctors consider full-blown Type II Diabetes to begin at 125mg/dL. Actually T2D also has to do with when the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to handle the massive amounts of blood sugar now needed by your cells, so you end up with a lot of extra glucose floating around, and that’s rough on the old bod.

What else? Weight was 172 this morning. That’s four or five pounds of gain in two days. Water weight? Time will tell. Blood pressure further elevated at 142 over 91, but my pressure is usually a bit higher in the a.m., so that’s just something to watch.

In other news, I’ve discovered something that 7-Eleven and McDonald’s have known for years: Coke goes down easier with ice. The Coke drinking is pretty hassle-free now; I just keep an iced glass of Coke by my side like a best friend and keep the refills a-coming. (Like a best friend who’s an enabler, an evil best friend, a frenemy.)

Had to make a grocery store run this morning because I woke to find I was out of Coke. Bought nine twelve packs of Coke, and mixed in a Vanilla Coke and two Cherry Cokes. I’m going to have fun on the way down, damnit. I also took some pictures of the soft drink and juice drink aisles – so colorful and happy and attractive… and HUGE! My kid loved it. He had never been down those aisles before. It was like taking him to a beautiful enchanted forest of bright colored drinks, like Candyland in bottles. See attached beauty pix. And now that I’m drinking the Koolaid, I’m tempted by all the wonderful sugary drinks to try! How wonderful! A new world!

A few new followers have been commenting that drinking ten Cokes is different than drinking fruit juice. It’s true. Juice may have some vitamins that Coke doesn’t have, Coke may have some phosphoric acid that orange juice doesn’t have… but what we are concerned about here is how much it affects your insulin level: The Glycemic Load. Glycemic Load is the glycemic Index of a food combined with the amount we’re ingesting. The short answer is that orange juice has nearly the glycemic index that Coke has, and they both have high glycemic indices. Fruit juice of any type raises your insulin level and worsens insulin resistance. But, what’s worse is that while people generally know that Coke is bad for you, fruit juice and all the fruit drinks that say “healthy,” “organic,” and “natural,” fool people into thinking they’re not as bad, and we therefore drink more of them.

It doesn’t matter to your insulin and blood sugar if the sugar is natural or refined, fruit sugar or corn syrup, natural or added. It will give you insulin resistance. Juice and fruity flavored drinks and Gatorade are just as bd or worse than Coke.

You know when you give blood and the doctor then gives you a glass of orange juice? It’s not for the vitamin C. It’s because nothing gives your blood sugar a quick boost like a glass of juice. Or a Coke.