The war on diet soda

As I presume I’ve mentioned at some point, I love diet soda (especially Diet Dr Pepper and Coke Zero).  It’s somewhat exasperating and amusing to me what a bad rap it gets.  It tastes great (once you get used to it) and there’s no calories.  Sure, it’s full of chemicals, but so is regular soda and the chemicals have never been shown to cause any harm in the reasonable quantities people consume in drinking a beverage.  I honestly think on some level people want diet soda to be bad for you.  It doesn’t seem right to have something from the “junk food” category with no nutritional value actually be harmless (which, far as I can tell, it actually is).  This is the best explanation I have for people being so ready to vilify diet soda.

I saw a headline last week about diet soda being as bad for your teeth as meth and gave it only a cursory glance, as I no, among other things, meth mouth is way over-hyped.  Anyway, I came across this Atlantic article tonight and it turns out that the “study” this is based on is basically a joke by relying on a huge outlier and that the publication standards for General Dentistry must be exceedingly low:

The story was pretty much everywhere. I embedded the photo here, sorry, in which the horrible teeth attributed to methamphetamine use look similar to the horrible teeth attributed to diet soda.

SHARK300200.jpgTop: “Dentition associated with the methamphetamine abuser.” Bottom: “Dentition associated with consumption of diet soda.” (Bassiouny, General Dentistry)

This was all based on an interesting article in the journalGeneral Dentistry, in which Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny, a professor in the department of restorative dentistry at Temple University, wrote about three people with severe tooth decay, one of whom drank a lot of diet soda. Specifically she drank two liters every day, and “she did not seek any dental health services for an extended period of time (more than two decades).”

Another person in the article used methamphetamines, and another used crack. They were all described as having comparably advanced tooth decay.

Seriously?  That’s published in a journal.  I found this interesting as well:

Meanwhile attributing bad teeth to diet soda alone in moderation has never happened. To that point, Dr. Eugene Antenucci, spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, told CBS, “How much [soda] is too much? I don’t know, but if it’s your primary drink, and you’re drinking more soda than water, I would say that’s too much.” Meanwhile any amount of lantern fuel is too much.

It seems that Dr. Antenucci does not have any evidence that diet soda in moderation is bad for your teeth, he just knows its bad if you drink more soda than water.  And you know what, maybe diet soda really is bad for your teeth.  But there’s this little thing called evidence that I expect people with medical degrees (or Political Science PhD’s for that matter) to rely on in making judgments.   Until proven otherwise, I’ll happily drink my diet soda guilt free.

Read me

Just finished reading with David last night (I presume I’ll stop reading to him when he goes to college, but otherwise I will as long as he wants me to) a great book, The Ask and the Answer.  It’s the second in a young adult trilogy, “Chaos Walking” set in a dystopian world/society where everything that men thing is literally broadcast out of their heads as “noise.”  Women, however, are unaffected.  I’m a sucker for a good dystopia and also for an engaging first-person narrative voice and great use of language.  These books hit the trifecta.  Two books in, I’d definitely put it as superior to the Hunger Games trilogy (in part, because the latter two books in that series were a huge letdown).  Anyway, definitely worth a try if this sounds up your alley at all.  I knew within the first few pages of The Knife of Never Letting Go, that I would really enjoy the book.

Image of the day

Well, rather than a photo, let’s go with an artist’s conception.  Very cool set of “Animal hybrids we wish existed” from Wired.  My kids (especially, my two-year daughter) loved these.  Check them all out.



Behold the pandaroo, a bouncy creature with a taste for bamboolyptus. “Think of the stuffed animal possibilities,” said Robert Irion, who suggested the pandaroo. “Jumping pandas with pockets!”

Illustration: Copyright Maayan Harel [Portfolio]

Chart of the day

Marijuana arrests by race via Drum:

This despite the fact that Blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Ideology and baby names

A while back I listened to a really interesting Freakonomics podcast about names (I do love the subject).  Part of the podcast addressed some fascinating Political Science research about the relationship between political ideology and the names people give their children.  I meant to write a post and never did.  The good news is, now that I’ve waited, John Sides has now done the nice summary of the research over at Wonkblog:

But among whites, partisanship and ideology mattered, too. Mothers who had at least some college education were more likely to give their child an uncommon name — and less likely to give the child a popular name — when they lived in relatively Democratic or liberal areas.  If neighborhood characteristics corresponded to the mother’s own characteristics, better-educated Democrats or liberals were more likely to give their babies unusual names than better-educated Republicans or conservatives.

This leads to the second difference: the names they chose. Oliver and colleagues find that there were roughly two kinds of uncommon baby names: ones that are completely made up or just different spellings of common names (like “Jazzmyne” for Jasmine), and ones that are just esoteric. When racial minorities and the poor chose uncommon names, they were more likely to choose the former. When Democrats or liberals chose uncommon names, they were more likely to choose the latter.

Oliver and colleagues argue that liberals, consciously or unconsciously, signal cultural tastes and erudition when picking their child’s name. In conversation with me, Oliver used himself as an example. He and his wife, a novelist, named their daughter Esme — a name gleaned from a story by the writer J.D. Salinger.

On the other hand, conservatives, by being more likely than liberals to pick popular or traditional names (like John, Richard, or Katherine), signal economic capital. That is, they are choosing names traditional to the dominant economic group — essentially, wealthy whites…

The names chosen by Democrats and Republicans differed in another respect: how they sound. Oliver and colleagues categorized each name by whether the sounds, orphonemes, it contained were more common in boy names or girl names. Boy names are more likely to contain “hard” sounds — consonants like K, B, D, T — while girl names are more likely to contain “soft” sounds — like the L’s in “Lola,” the A in “Ella,” and the Y in “Carly.” Oliver and colleagues found that, for both boy and girl babies, “softer” sounds were more prominent among educated whites living in more Democratic or liberal neighborhoods. That is, a boy’s name like “Julian” or “Liam” or a girl’s name like “Malia” would be more common in Democratic neighborhoods. A boy’s name like “Trig” or a girl’s name like “Bristol” would be more common in Republican neighborhoods. (Oliver and colleagues cannot help but note that the Obamas and the Palins conform to their findings.)

Well, then, I’m pretty sure this makes me a bad liberal, as the father of the wealthy white names of: David, Alexander, Evan (probably the most liberal name of the bunch, but my child most likely to go Alex P. Keaton on me), and Sarah.  Of course, Kim had something to do with it, but obviously we ultimately agreed on all the names.  I think this may actually have something to do with my innate personal conservativism, as quite distinct from my political liberalism.  As mentioned, I think had I been raised by different parents, I might have been quite the conservative (shudder), but at least that disposition lives on in the names I give my children (and my initial instinct to react negatively towards “long-haired hippie freaks” and others who clearly flout social conventions).

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