When the introduction to a newspaper opinion piece reads, “An addict tries to cut back because of its health hazards,” we typically envision a drug addict combatting an addiction to illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, etc. Not so, apparently, in the Boston Globe. Rather, medical student Nathaniel Morris chose to discuss his “addiction” to a far scarier substance. It’s diet soda. (Shudder.)
Now, we have to step in briefly and ask, “So what if he drinks diet soda?” Researchers from Cambridge University investigated the general idea of “food addiction” and found it lacking in scientific explanatory power. And as for “harmful effects,” none are proven. The sweeteners in diet sodas are recognized as safe both by the Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority. (That makes us wonder if the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which attacks them, might bear some responsibility for people consuming the sugary soft drinks which the anti-pleasure police make so much hay over.) Of all possible “vices,” a zero-calorie beverage is far from the worst a person could have, and Morris’s comparison to another, more harmful vice is simple scaremongering.
But major newspapers don’t mind providing column inches to push overblown hype. Morris defines the “symptoms” of his “condition”:
While I’m not really sure when I picked up this habit, I’ve recently become aware of the incredible amount that I drink. For a while, I tried sticking to just one can a day. Yet, gradually, I slipped back into my old routine. First, a free refill at lunch. Then, a couple cans after dinner. A few weeks later, I found myself walking down Madison Avenue in New York City with a Super Big Gulp, wearing my medical school T-shirt and getting stares from tourists.
“Getting stares from tourists” because you’re walking down a street with a soda in your hand? Please, spare us your self-imagined and exaggerated feelings of helplessness and insecurity. Here’s a prescription for kicking your “addiction”: Don’t buy diet sodas. Perhaps Morris could make like other purveyors of the dubious theory of “food addiction” and drink coffee on daytime television instead.