The American Heart Associations recommendation to cut down on dietary sugar is all over the news. Discussion of this by Isis the Scientist triggered a comment from Callinectes :

Someone reading this may therefore assume diet drinks with Aspartame, Splenda, etc. may be okay because it’s 0 calories and added “sugar”. Can anyone comment authoritatively on this? The way I see it, it’s still just empty calories and not very good for you when consumed regularly on a weekly or (heaven forbid) daily basis.

To which Isis responded:

One might argue that diet drinks still activate the “Hedonistic food pathways” in the brain (centers in the ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens) that lead us to associate reward with food intake, causing us to take in more energy-dense food… That said, I don’t know of any multi-variate studies comparing risk between sugar drinks, diet drinks,… let’s be clear that Aspartame and Splenda are zero calorie sweeteners, meaning they would technically not contribute to the AHA’s recommended daily intake.

I am reminded of what I think of as a reasonably provocative series of observation from Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson at Purdue.

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The Revolutionary Minds Think Tank blog ( which I mentioned over at A Vote for Science yesterday) is a new pet project to transfer a Seed project over to the ScienceBlogs side of the Seed Media Group. In the initial post the editors asked the following question, to be followed by answers from, one assumes, revolutionary minds.

The boundaries of science are continually expanding as scientists become increasingly integral to finding solutions for larger social issues, such as poverty, conflict, financial crises, etc. On what specific issue/problem do you feel we need to bring the scientific lens to bear?

I am not a revolutionary mind but I have a minor thought on the application of the scientific lens to the political process. The key concepts are “experimentalism” and “sunset provision“.

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