Diet Coke is worse than vaccines! It really causes autism!

Well, the causation I claim may be just correlation, and only for males and not for females (but males are more affected by autism than females, so it fits, does it not?). Anyway, that is the article:

What are your thoughts? Am I right pitting diet sodas, particularly Coke? Or is this just another click bait article to ignore?
And if this is correct and further research confirms the hypothesis: what consequences could this have for the companies selling those drinks? Will they become the new public enemy, like tobacco?

I’ve requested a title change. I hate seeing bullshit like you put in jest.
This is what got people like Jenny McCarthy started on her campaign of evil.

Sorry, I thought that was OK in the Pit. It is tongue in cheek, of course. I don’t oppose a title change, to be clear.

Diet Coke’s main ingredient is dihydrogen monoxide, which can cause death when misused and is present in malignant tumors.

It’s not a bad study, but it does NOT support your claim that diet coke causes autism. It shows some correlation that seems statistically significant, but it’s just one study with fairly small numbers. And it does acknowledge that one risk factor for autism is obesity, and that many obese folks drink diet sodas.

I’m no fan of aspartame, I don’t care for its metabolic breakdown products in the body. But this is no smoking gun. It’s interesting data but further study is needed.

It isn’t against the rules that I know of, it just is horribly unfunny as we know how many idiots will take your title seriously. I’m bitching as a fellow poster.

Changes are up to you or @Miller.

I thought the title was funny, fwiw.

It really isn’t. Shit like this is what really got the anti-vaxx movement going. Nothing funny about that especially when it led to the even worse anti-vaxx stuff during the pandemic.

Alright, new title: “Diet Coke is better than vaccines!”

I don’t see a problem with the title. Anti-vax nonsense is annoying, but I don’t think jokey Pit thread titles are a significant contributor.

Thank you, I agree.

The damaged caused by Andrew Wakefield, Jenny McCarthy and others is unbelievable. It isn’t funny. But you do you.

I regularly scroll r/HermanCaineAwards on Reddit and laugh my ass off, so I guess there’s room to disagree here.

No idea what that is, other than some reddit thing.

I watched all of Adam ruins Everything

When he ruined science, we have these nuggets.

“Or how about that series of studies from the '70s and '80s that showed you can actually make yourself feel happier just by smiling? In 2016, almost 20 labs tried to replicate it and not one of them was able to reproduce those findings.”

Daniel Engber. “Sad Face.” Slate, 28 Aug 2016.

“One research team just replicated 100 famous psychology studies, but found they couldn’t reproduce about 60% of them.”

Open Science Collaboration. “Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science.” Science, 28 Aug 2015.

“Another revisited 67 major drug studies, and found that about 75% didn’t match their results.”

Brian Owens. “Reliability of ‘New Drug Target’ Claims Called Into Question.” Nature, 5 Sep 2011.

“Another team zeroed in on 53 recent cancer studies, and couldn’t reproduce 47 of them.”

Sharon Begley. “In Cancer Science, Many ‘Discoveries’ Don’t Hold Up.” Reuters, 28 Mar 2012.

The long and the short of it is that ONE study doesn’t mean much.

It can also cause death when inhaled in a large enough quantity.

My main concerns with the study, apart from small sample size, is the unbalanced nature of study groups (the control group for some reason was a little over half the size of the group with autism), and the likelihood of recall bias in asking mothers to cite past consumption habits.

Case Control Studies - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf.

There have been numerous case-control studies that attempted to identify risk factors for autism. One of the most publicized found a link between vinyl flooring and autism. Interesting - but not substantiated by later research to my knowledge.

There are so many potential other correlating factors that, even if correlation could be well-established, it’d still be very difficult to convert that to causation.

Even IF the correlation is accurate, and IF it actually turns out to result from causation, if it only affects pregnant and nursing mothers it will just be another substance (like alcohol) that they are warned not to consume while they are pregnant or nursing. Tobacco products are poison to everyone, while alcohol (which I compared to above) is bad in excess but not a problem for most people. There is no parallel.

(emphasis for humorous effect)
Phrasing! :rofl:

(Of course, it is the Pit, so if you meant to call @Pardel-Lux “bullshit” I guess that’s allowed.)

I think this study suggests that some further research might be warranted but in and of itself I don’t find it particularly convincing

A few areas of concern:

  1. Their methodology for assessing aspartame use was based on a retrospective survey done after their child had been diagnosed with autism, and so several years after the pregnancy/breast feeding. I think it could be possible that parents of autistic considering aspartame as a possible cause for their child’s autism might report higher use, than would parents of normal children.

  2. The statistics are barely significant, and only when a subset analysis was used. Near as I can tell they did not adjust for the multiple comparisons (if you roll the dice enough times your more likely to get lucky) if they had then its likely that none of the results would have been significant. I will also note that even though they found the result in male and didn’t find it in female, there results for these two groups aren’t actually very different, so while they rationalize the sex difference in the discussion, it really seems to be more an issue of chance than of biology.

  3. Further related to multiple comparisons, in their methods they report that as well as aspartame consumption there were a large number of other features included on the original questionnaire. But they don’t report any analyses on those variables. Now it may be that they were particularly interested in aspartame and so decided a priori that they wanted to look at its consumption specifically, and so I am I won’s say for sure that they did this, but it is a frequent mistake of researchers that they will start off by looking at all of their data, identify something that looks significant and then write a paper about that thing that they found. So it may be that they looked at aspartame, and sucralose, and red dye number 5, and MSG etc. etc. and out of all of those things they found that aspartame was significant of autism within the male subset. That would mean they rolled the dice many many times until they eventually got lucky. If that was indeed the case than the study means nothing.

Ideally I would like to see prospective study where mothers actually record their diets during pregnancy and breast feeding with subsets and hypotheses and endpoints defined a priori. If that came up significant then its time to put out a warning. But its probably moot anyway since now that this has come out a large percentage of mothers will decide to cut out aspartame just to be safe regardless of what any future study says.