Is the New Diet Pepsi Better for You?

Diet Pepsi recently started shipping it’s new formulation which has replaced aspartame, but is this really any better for us?

While switching to sucralose (Splenda), PepsiCo released a statement that it believes aspartame is also safe, and that this move is due only to consumer complaints about aspartame and preference for other sweeteners.

However, consumers have called for years for soda companies to remove aspartame from their formations.   Soda companies have claimed sales of sodas in general have been decreasing as consumer opt for bottled teas and non-carbonated beverages.

The new version of Diet Pepsi joins Pepsi True,  a mid-calorie soda with 60 calories,  that uses stevia in addition to sugar as the sweetener which was launched last year.

Is the sucralose that replaced aspartame in Diet Pepsi really any healthier?  

Sucralose was discovered in the United Kingdom by scientists while they were developing insecticides.  The sucralose molecule is made of sugar modified with chlorine.  Some people cite the modification with chlorine as a source of concern. 

One study in 2013 found that both human and rodent studies demonstrated that sucralose may alter glucose, insulin, and glucagon-like peptide 1 levels. Taken together, these findings indicate that sucralose is not a biologically inert compound.  The presence of similar findings in both human and rat tissue makes a strong argument that sucralose may be calorie-free but still have some metabolic effect on the body.

Another study performed on 7 humans, found to the contrary that sucralose when delivered directory to the stomach, does not stimulate insulin, GLP-1, or GIP release or slow gastric emptying in healthy humans.

So what’s really going on?

Sometimes when a study effect is small or nothing, different studies may have conflicting results. This makes it very difficult to find a result when using low numbers of subjects.   

The above are results from individuals and studies.  What does the population data say?

Unfortunately, a 2012 study in France found that the consumption of diet sodas was associated with diabetes. The findings appear to more than could be explained by those women with larger BMIs.  This study, however is far from conclusive and really only points to an association, not a cause.

Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank has downgraded sucralose from “safe” to “caution” after a study in Italy linked its use to leukemia in mice.  

So is sucralose really any safer than phenylalanine?  That’s hard to say.  

Remember that both of these sweeteners are still artificial.

Sucralose may be safer, but data is not conclusive.  Whether or not you choose to drink the new Diet Pepsi is your personal choice based on your level of comfort with the data and scientific opinion.

The healthiest option is obviously to avoid any artificial sweeteners in exchange for natural sweeteners such as stevia or foods lower in sugar content.

We could all use use a diet that is lower in sugar and artificial sweeteners.  

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In good health,

J Lee Jenkins, MD

J Lee Jenkins, MD, MSc, FACEP is a practicing board-certified emergency physician and researcher in emergency public health. She can also be found on twitter ( and Facebook (J Lee Jenkins MD).

Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This blog is not intended to provide personal medical advice. As always, please consult with your personal doctor prior to making any changes to your health regimen.


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