Over the past several days, the Internet has exploded with a study that "proves" diet soda is as bad for your teeth as methamphetamine and crack cocaine. And these headlines splattered all across the Internet are shockingly distressing. "Drinking a few cans of Mr. Pibb Zero?" pondered sites like CBS and FOX News. "Well, heavens to Betsy, you might as well be freebasing until your jaw melts off!"
Or stealing copper to buy your weekly 12-pack.
And when nearly every news site is running a trivially unique variation of the same diet-soda-damning title, most readers skimming the headlines will walk away with the impression that Mountain Dew is now in cahoots with Walter White. It certainly doesn't help when every article comes with a glaring picture of a "diet soda mouth," which looks more like the trash dump in Bangkok than a working set of teeth.
Academy of General Dentistry
Trash dumps in Bangkok carry less syphilis.
But this media brouhaha and study were total bullshit. Although the study was conducted by the reputable-sounding Academy of General Dentistry and published in the journal General Dentistry, even a perfunctory glance at this paper would force the reader to assume that the soda corporations forgot to pay their protection money to the Colgate Mafia. For example:
#3. The Study Used a Sample Size of Three
Yup, the study used all of three individuals. We don't have to tell you that having a sample size of three is fundamentally wrong on more levels than the Dark Tower has floors. Quite a bit of math goes into determining the perfect sample size for the scope of a study. And generally, the consensus is that when conducting a study proving that common soft drinks are as dentally apocalyptic as crystal meth, having fewer participants than you have fingers on your hands is like publishing a paper concluding that all movies are about haunted cookies voiced by Gary Busey because the only film you included in your data was the 2005 classic The Gingerdead Man.
He Busey'd the everliving Busey out of that role.
#2. The Sample Subjects Were, Ahem, Unique
Who were the three pillars of society this paper rested upon? A 51-year-old crack addict, a 29-year-old meth addict, and a 30-something woman who drank 2 liters of diet soda a day for five years. It's also necessary to mention that Miss Morlock Mouth up there hadn't seen a dentist in two decades, which probably didn't help her smile not look like Tutankhamen's. So yeah, this study wasn't dealing with your average aspartame guzzler. Seriously, all they needed was a dude who huffs diesel and another guy who gets dizzy after holding his breath for too long and the research team could've summoned a sickly Captain Planet made of downmarket addictions.
"You floss with Red Vines? We'd like to ask you a few questions."
#1. If You Drink 2 Liters of Soda a Day, You Have Worse Problems
We hate to break it to you, but if you're drinking 2 liters of anything other than water per day every day for five fucking years, you're almost definitely going to see some adverse side effects -- and dental hygiene will be the least of your worries. Several studies -- all with more participants than a purple vampire on Sesame Street can count to -- have documented the association of diet soda with serious vascular, respiratory, and weight problems.
(Also, in a purely physical sense, how the hell does one cram half a gallon of bubbly chemical water into their stomach once a day for five years? At that rate, you're basically training for some uninvented Olympic event in which nobody wins.)
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Congratulations! You win a gold medal in hating your body.
So despite all of the above, seemingly half the Internet slapped a "drinking diet soda = blowing rails of crystal" headline on stories regarding this study. And in cases like these, where "common, legal substance that's not exactly super for your health" is equated with "illegal substance that eventually causes you to take up residence in a drainage ditch," the latter just ends up feeling less serious. The moral of the story: Good job being terrible reporters, Internet.