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The question

How bad is diet pop for me? Will drinking one a day cause harm?

The answer

I certainly don't think that one serving of diet pop a day will cause any harm.

The controversy around diet pop - and other diet foods for that matter - revolves around artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. There are many negative reports on the internet claiming that aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) causes brain cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures and Alzheimer's disease, but there's not a stitch of scientific evidence to support these claims.

Sucralose (Splenda) is often deemed more natural than other sugar substitutes because it's "made from sugar". While that's technically true, it's misleading. Sucralose is made using a multi-step chemical process that adds chlorine to sugar molecules.

Whole Foods Market does not carry products with sucralose (as well as aspartame and acesulfame potassium) based on the fact it's an artificial chemical which lacks long term data from human studies.

It's true that some experts remain wary of these chemicals. The safety of some of today's most widely consumed artificial sweeteners is based on studies conducted decades ago. In the case of acesulfame potassium (combined with other artificial sweeteners in foods), its safety is based on only a few animal studies.

If you drank a few servings of diet cola per day, I would be concerned about your bone health.

That's because one of the additives in colas, called phosphoric acid, can upset calcium balance in your body if you're not meeting your daily calcium requirements (1000 milligrams for adults to age 50; 1200 milligrams for older adults; 1300 milligrams for teenagers). While one a day is not a concern, if you do drink more be sure to get the calcium you need.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.