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Aspartame and GMOs: What You Really Need to Know About the Science and Health Risks

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Coca-Cola claims diet drinks promote weight loss, but studies show that artificial sweeteners actually contribute to weight gain.

In response to a plunge in sales of artificially sweetened sodas last week, Coca-Cola announced plans to roll out an ad campaign to win back popular favor for its aspartame-containing beverage, Diet Coke. (Diet Pepsi, which also contains aspartame, saw its sales fall 6.2 percent in 2012 while regular Pepsi sales fell little more than half that amount.)

The safety of aspartame, which the FDA approved for human consumption in 1981, has long been in dispute, before, during and after its approval by the FDA. The simmering controversy is notable for the parallels between aspartame's safety and regulatory history, and that of another controversial industrial food product - genetically modified foods known as GMOs.

Aspartame, developed by Searle, was approved for public consumption despite the strong concerns of FDA scientists, who were overruled by Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr. then the newly appointed FDA chief-handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld, the former CEO of Searle, and the Secretary of Defense in two Republican administrations. Hayes pushed through the approval, and then returned to the same industry (at Searle's public relations firm).   


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