Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Diet Coke and Depression

When you are a recovering drunk, you don’t have a ton of options at parties. I used to be an avid Diet Coke drinker. But last summer my sister scared the well you know out of me when she started talking about what aspartame can do to your system. I am chemically sensitive as it is, and many of you are, too, probably–which is why I don’t drink alcohol and gave up smoking.
But I was curious if Diet Coke was really that dangerous. I did some research, and as you well know, every paranoia will be confirmed eventually by some article on the web.
I found an article about Diet Coke on John McManamy’s very reputable website (which you can get to by clicking here). What was particularly interesting to me was the relationship between aspartame and depression and bipolar disorder. Says John:


In 1993, Dr Walton, who is a psychiatrist, conducted a study of 40 patients with unipolar depression and a similar number without a psychiatric history. The subjects were given 30 mgs per kg of body weight a day of aspartame or a placebo for 20 days (about equal to daily consumption if it completely replaced sugar).
Thirteen individuals completed the study, then an institutional review board called the project to a halt “because of the severity of reactions within the group of patients with a history of depression.” In a smaller, shorter crossover design, “again there was a significant difference between aspartame and placebo in number and severity of symptoms for patients with a history of depression, whereas for individuals without such a history there was not.”


Accordingly, the author concluded that “individuals with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to this artificial sweetener and its use in this population should be discouraged.”
As to further particulars of the study, based on the eight depressed subjects and five healthy subjects who completed it:
Three quarters of the patients with a history of depression taking aspartame reported feeling depressed vs none of the healthy subjects taking aspartame and about 40 percent of both groups taking a placebo. The 40 percent is probably a statistical aberration owing to the small numbers who completed the study. Nevertheless, the figures consistently show the depressed/aspartame group experiencing an array of symptoms in far greater numbers and severity, including: fatigue, nausea, headache, trouble remembering, insomnia, and other symptoms.
The depressed/placebo group showed almost none of these symptoms, along with the healthy/aspartame and healthy/placebo groups Dr Walton told this writer he believes aspartame inhibits serotonin synthesis by decreasing the availability of the precursor L-tryptophan, a finding borne out in another research team’s 1987 experiment on rats.
Remarkably, Dr Walton’s study is the only one we have related to both mood and aspartame. It would be helpful to get a second opinion, but no one else since, apparently, has tried to either replicate or refute his results. This may be due to the political and funding climate. “The NutraSweet company,” Dr Walton told this writer, “clearly tried to block our study.”
So we are left contemplating the fridge, where our Diet Coke is being chilled, with but one aging study to either guide us or confuse us. Once again, like the trial and error of our meds, we find ourselves human guinea pigs, this time experimenting with our diet. For many, aspartame may turn out to be a life-saving alternative to that well-documented sweet poison, sugar. Others who continue to experience depression, fatigue, and other symptoms, however, may want to moderate their aspartame consumption and see what happens.


I decided to give up Diet Coke like every other bloody drink I’ve given up. So now I’m back to my boring sparkling water and lime again. Snore.

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  • Larry Parker

    Give me cold spring water and unsweetened iced tea.
    I’ll still have a Diet Coke every once in awhile — like I’ll still have a fast-food burger every once in awhile even after reading “Fast Food Nation.” But not bloody often.

  • Just Jan

    Looking back over the last few months I think this may explain some things. I started weight watchers about 6 mos ago and went from reg drinks to diet and looking back the weekends that I have done more diet soda than water on Monday I feel terrible. I am going to have to test this theory, it seems to make sense for me anyway.

  • MK

    I use to get headaches so bad I couldn’t move off the couch. One day when I was at work I started getting one of my headaches and a girl I worked with asked me what was wrong I told her about my headaches, she asked me if I drank diet pop? I said I did, she told me she use to have the same problem and gave up “Aspartame” and they got better, so I decided to try it. Well, thank God for her telling me that, I hardly ever have a small headache anymore and since then I have told other people about this and found out the same side effect. I truly believe that stuff is like poison to our bodies, if your pregnant call the Poison control center, they will tell you the same. It shoouldn’t even be on the market and it’s unbelievable how much food has that added to it. So, if you get headaches try staying away from it, what do you have to loose?

  • valerie

    What about Splenda and NutraSweet and all the other name brand dietatetic sweetners? Do they fall under the same category with the same results as Aspartame? Hmmm, I don’t know.
    All I know is that I drink about a gallon a day of Crystal Light Peach Ice tea. I’ve managed to dilute it to half of it’s “potency.” I do love water, but I think I’m truly addicted to this ice tea drink.
    Seeing as I quit smoking three years ago, (Yippee and HeeHaw for getting that doggone monkey off my back!) I’m thinking I’ve currently chose the lesser of two evils!

  • Sue

    Aspartame is Equal (the little blue packet) Diet Coke can also be bought made with Splenda (the little yellow packaet) instead. It seems like there is always someone out there trying to discredit something. Remember the Saccharin(sp?) scare 30+ years ago?? It caused cancer in laboratory rats. I haven’t read anywhere yet of a person dying from cancer caused by Saccharin – so I’ll take my chances with Diet Coke. Having to be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life – it’s better than alcohol, or the sugar-laden regular versions.

  • M

    The link to John’s site doesn’t work.

  • Rebecca

    Ok – I am proud to have a medical scientist announce his work with chemicals and how it affects our bodies.
    Hello – wake up people – do you really think there is no price to pay when exposing our bodies to massive amounts of crap that is in all the processed foods and drinks that are consumed? Do you know the average shoe size of a girl went from 5-6 to 10-11 within the last 15 years? Why do you think that is? CHEMICALS.
    Yes – there is a lot of misinformation out there but do you really think that anything that benefits large corporations (who pay govt officials to keep quiet)is truly announced on a large scale? If you don’t believe that – maybe you should get your head examined – not for the effects of artificial sweetners but for stupidity.
    Chemicals are bad. Human bodies weren’t designed for chemicals. Simple answer? Balance it out with way more good than bad. Pretty simple.

  • Blanche

    I believe anything (including diet soda) in MODERATION won’t be harmful. We as a society tend to overdo it. Moderation and working out/walking gets the toxins out of our bodies, studies have shown.
    I have enough problems w/ my psych meds, including an increased appetite and weight gain. So I have to take my own advice.
    I still smoke, but my doc believes one addiction at a time (alcohol)also (actually two docs, my primary and my psychiatrist). There is hope for us.

  • becca

    Yes I agree. Chemicals,preservatives, additives, colors, artificial flavors, MSG, whatever you want to call them. I have paid the price of being sick, lightheaded, headaches, nausea, weakness, memory loss all of it from apartame,especially splenda, ooh that stuff is bad!!! I am extremely sensitive and the older I get the worse it gets. Don’t believe it, then dig in, take more meds let pharmaceuticals get rich off you while you feel like crap now or later. Oh yeh, diseases will appear and hope you have insurance because their won’t be any social security or medi- whatever later on. Those people are maddening anyway. If you get sick and have to let the government take care of you good freaking luck. I don’t want to be you!

  • Deb Rincon

    I am a diagnosed Bi Polar patient, I found alot of things that are bad for me, Diet Coke, regular Coke. All sodas as a matter of fact. But, I too have quit drinking, and most certainly think that Coca Cola, out weighs the side effects of Alcohol on our bodies. So if It means Coke of Alcohol mixed drinks, I prefer the latter of the two. But, natural foods and drinks are the best alternatives to the choices for everyone.

  • Majida

    Yes, I think many people agree that diet coke (or all kinds of soda drinks) is bad for health, not only because of the aspartame but also for the large amounts of phosphoric acid that when abosorbed in the body will lessen the absorbtion of calcium which eventually leads to less bone density specially in children.

  • Douglas Cootey

    I am very sensitive to various chemicals. I used to just go along in life, suffering, until Dezoxyn and Zoloft KO’d my nervous system and permanently damaged me. Since then I have been very conscientious about chemicals (meds or additives) and their affect on me.
    As with any study, your mileage may vary. The best way to determine if a particular additive is causing a physiological reaction is live on a bland, neutral diet for a few days to clean your system out, then experiment with the additive in question in small dosages and take note of the reaction, if any. Isolating additives can be tricky if they are preservatives or included in the “and other ingredients/spices/etc.” but the results are worth the effort. We recently did that with my 6yr old and discovered she was allergic to cow’s milk. Not lactose intolerant, but allergic. Now she’s a lot happier.
    If aspartame is triggering or worsening Depression, then by all means cut it out of your diet. Thanks for posting this, Therese. I chew a lot of gum. Some has aspartame, so I’ll be experimenting and seeing if I, too, am sensitive to this additive/sweetener.
    Douglas Cootey
    The Splintered Mind – Overcoming AD/HD & Depression With Lots Of Humor And Attitude

  • Philip

    Thanks for the information, I have been trying to piece together my recent depression, bi-polar symptoms including mania for the last year.
    I had read many articles on depression, nervousness and wild mood swings and aspartame seemed to be a common keyword in many searches.
    About 1 month ago, I stopped drinking Diet Coke cold turkey…I was consuming about 12-18 cans a day! Within a week, my symptoms completely went away.
    Over the weekend, I went to the movies and did not want to drink the sugar laden Coke syrups, so I opted for…Diet Coke. Big bad mistake!
    Within hours, I started feeling depressed, paranoid, nervous and now Monday afternoon….the symptoms are finally starting to leave.
    I know the naysayers will say it is in my head…well actually it is! This chemical does affect my brain. I would have never believed that aspartame was the cause, but I know in my case it is.

  • Your Name

    For the last 10 yrs I have been falling about 3 times a week.There is no vertigo,I just lose my balance and fall.Cardiac,neurologic and ear exams have all been negative.I am not a big diet coke drinker but use splenda and sweet and low in beverages.So far I have had a torn rotator cuff and 1 knee replacement that had to be re-done after a fall 3 wks post-op.I am curious if there have been any reports such as this??I am going to try just plain sugar for now.Thanks

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