Dear EarthTalk: I drink diet soda but I’m told it’s bad for me and linked to health problems. Is this true and if so can you suggest any healthier alternatives? -- Mitchell James, Ronkonkoma, NY
While rumors have circulated for years that diet sodas are unhealthy, researchers have found no direct links between such drinks and specific human health problems. Aspartame (also known as NutraSweet) is the sugar-alternative of choice for most diet soda makers. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar but contains no significant calories and does not promote tooth decay. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved aspartame in 1974, though health advocates held up its widespread use for over a decade.