Last June I wrote about John's massive, decade-long Diet Mountain Dew addiction and his increasingly worrisome memory lapses. After reading that one of the ingredients in Mountain Dew, brominated vegetable oil, has been shown to cause memory problems, John quit the 'Dew cold-turkey.
Since then several of you have asked for updates on John, wondering if he's managed to stay on the wagon all this time, and if so, whether his symptoms have improved.
I'm happy to report that John HAS stayed on the wagon, though it's never been easy for him. He tells me he still craves the stuff to this day, and that now he has a much better understanding of just how powerful addiction can be.
John didn't just quit Diet Mountain Dew, by the way; he quit ALL soda. The caffeine withdrawal was pretty hellish for the first few weeks, but after that he claimed he felt more awake and clear-headed. He still complained of having to search for the right word all the time, but someone who claimed to know these things told us it can take up to six months to purge the BVO from your system, so I encouraged John to be patient.
John is not much a water drinker, and never has been, so he immediately started researching alternative sugar-free drink options. He did a lot of reading on the various artificial sweeteners (there are claims that Aspartame also causes memory issues) and eventually decided he was comfortable with anything that uses Splenda or Stevia.
His drink of choice now (which uses sucralose, aka Splenda) is Mio, a liquid additive for water. It's kind of like Crystal Light, but since it's already liquid it's a breeze to mix up by the glass. (You just fill the glass partway with water, add 2 squirts of flavoring, and then fill the glass the rest of the way. No spoon needed!)
Naturally, John only uses the Lemonade and Orange-Tangerine flavors - he's a citrus guy, for sure - but here's a fun little secret: if you use one squirt of Lemonade and one squirt of Orange-Tangerine in an 8 oz glass of water, you'll get something that tastes EXACTLY like the Orange drink they serve at McDonald's. Seriously, I tried it, and it's uncanny.
As for me, I still drink 98% water, but when I'm craving something different I use the Mio Peach Tea. If you like sweet teas, you'll probably like it.
I should mention I'm not being paid to sound like a Mio commercial, btw; we just really like the stuff.
(Oh, and lots of you recommended the Sodastream, an at-home soda-maker, but John tried a few of the diet flavors at a friend's and wasn't wild about them.)
Sometime before Christmas John started re-introducing caffeine to his system with the occasional Diet Coke. He only has it at restaurants, so that helps him keep the quantity under control. And even though he tells me he craves it every day, he's never once had another Diet Mountain Dew.
Now, on to his symptoms:
About two months after John quit we went to dinner with a couple of you readers out at Disney, and I remember being struck by how comfortable John seemed that night, finding his words with ease and never once stumbling over a phrase or anecdote. I'd become so used to his often halting speech pattern that it was a real joy to see him laughing and talking eagerly without hesitations. I think the memory thing had been messing with his confidence, maybe.
In the months since John has still occasionally groaned in frustration and claimed he can't remember anything, but I've definitely seen improvements. These days we never have those little moments of strife and frustration over forgotten words, and in fact John's teased ME a few times over my not remembering a word before he does.
So, was quitting Mountain Dew a silver bullet "cure" for John's memory? Maybe, maybe not. It's hard to measure, although as as outside observer I do think John is much better off now than he was. Not to mention anytime you cut down on that many chemicals entering your body, it's got to be a good thing.
Some of you may recall that in January Pepsi Co. announced that they would remove BVO from Gatorade - partially due to a petition started by a 16-year-old girl - but they've still refused to remove the flame retardant (yes, it's a flame retardant) from Mountain Dew. (Other drinks that include BVO are Fanta Orange, Fresca, and Powerade.) I was also interested to learn that BVO is actually banned in over 100 countries. Yikes! Food for thought for those of you who may still be struggling with a similar soda addiction.
As before, please feel free to share your own experiences with soda, and any links you might have to relevant research or articles. We're always up to learn more!
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