Three soda makers are being sued because their diet drinks allegedly make people fat.
Six soft drink lovers, each of whom has struggled with obesity, claim the aspertame in the diet beverages made by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple made them pack on the pounds rather than shed weight.
Lawsuits were filed against each of the beverage giants.
The companies’ diet drinks contain aspertame, a sugar substitute, which some recent studies have shown can cause cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as lead to weight gain, the suits claim.
The weight gain happens because aspertame interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize calories, the court filings allege.
Marketing these brands as “diet” is false, misleading and unlawful, the suits claim.
The suits are among a number of such legal actions filed against food companies, including one earlier this month against Tootsie Roll Industries for selling products that only partially fill the box they are in.
Some industry experts dismiss them as frivolous, driven by profit-seeking law firms. But the soda suits appear to have some merit, according Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.
“One point is clear: Diet sodas have not been shown to promote weight loss,” Nestle said, calling the recent research about aspertame “suggestive and interesting, but not fully proven.”
Coca-Cola said in a statement, “This lawsuit is completely meritless, and we will vigorously defend against it.”
Dr Pepper Snapple said the suit is “completely without merit” and said “sound scientific studies” back the effectiveness of their sweeteners’ ability to help people maintain their weight.
Pepsico did not return requests for comment. The company dumped aspertame from its diet drink in 2015, replacing it with another artificial sweetener, sucralose — and then reintroduced it last year after its diet soda sales plummeted.
“Our case is focused on aspertame, but all artificial sweetners” behave the same in your body, said Derek Smith, whose eponymous law firm is lead counsel in all three soda cases.