I would like to rise up today in defense of Diet Coke - all of diet sodas in fact - but Diet Coke happens to be my personal favorite. I like this stuff. Cracking open a can of it, maybe pouring some over ice. It helps me survive those long work days. And this love of Diet Coke is one reason my reentry into the United States has been a little rocky.

When I moved back recently after a reporting assignment in Russia, nobody warned me that war had been declared on Diet Coke. The artillery was fired by Men's Health magazine. I had heard the old argument that Diet Coke doesn't live up to its billing as a diet helper, but now in the magazine comes this accusation that diet sodas make you eat more? The magazine cited a study claiming that if you give up regular soft drinks and start downing the diet sodas, you end up eating more desserts, more bread and you get fatter.

Now, I'm willing to take serious advice about better eating. Goodness knows battling obesity is one of the most serious challenges in the U.S. today. But living abroad helped me to see just how obsessed we are in the U.S. about giving each other tips about what not to put in our mouths. Just for fun, here are a few other gems from Men's Health: If you're hungover, choose asparagus. I'll quote the magazine: "When South Korean researchers exposed a group of human liver cells to asparagus extract, it suppressed free radicals and more than doubled the activity of two enzymes that metabolize alcohol." Really?

OK. How about this one? Practice total recall, the magazine says. The magazine quotes British scientists who said if you think about your last meal before snacking, you'll remember how satisfying that meal was and you'll be less in the mood to snack. Well, I call bologna. I can't remember the last time - I was thinking back to my ham and cheese sandwich and that suddenly made me less interested in the pretzels in the front of me on my desk.

Definitely my favorite: turn off the TV. The magazine says people who watch television during a meal chow down almost 300 calories more than a non-TV watcher. Now, I'm no scientist but I'm sorry. If you're listening to this radio program while you're eating a fat-free yogurt, can I jump to the conclusion that radio listening is going to make you a healthier eater? I don't think so. Count me as unconvinced.


GREENE: Me and Elton John.


ELTON JOHN: Not for the way it goes down easy. (Not for the way it puts a smile on your face.) Not for the way it (unintelligible). (Not for the way it's gonna show on you.) Just for the reason (just for the reason)...

GREENE: You remember that - Elton John's Diet Coke commercial featuring Paula Abdul from the 1990s. And you're listening to NPR News.

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