No Diet Soda Is Not The Answer To Cut Sugar
Given the theme of this column, it would seem that a big step forward in promoting public health would be to shift from fully sugared soda to sugarless diet drinks. Seems logical, right? Unfortunately, over the years, it has been determined that diet drinks are not the answer. Yes, diet drinks reduce calories from sugar, but they can be harmful to your health in several ways.
For starters, ironically, diet drinks can actually cause weight gain instead of weight loss. Despite fewer calories in diet drinks, this is offset by an increased desire for sugary treats. This may be due to a change in the brain, the so-called sweet-sensing reward center, and its reaction to sweetness, causing an increase in cravings for high-calorie foods.
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Another problem with diet drinks that can promote weight gain has to do with changes in our gastrointestinal microbes, the gut microbiome. Research suggests that artificial sweeteners increase the population of gut bacteria that do a better job of releasing energy from food during digestion. In turn, this makes more energy available to be stored as body fat.
Reasons You Should Never Drink Diet Soda
Free of calories but full of negative health effectsits time to ditch your diet soda habit for good.
Youre probably well aware that a 140-calorie can of soda isnt exactly a health elixir. But with so many new diet soda flavors emerging that might catch your eye in the grocery store and even a 104-year-old woman who claims sipping a daily Diet Coke is one key to her fountain of youth, perhaps youve started drinking lower-calorie soda instead.
Youre not doing yourself manyif anyfavors, experts say.
No one needs to have a soda regular or diet. Some think diet soda is a better choice, because at least it doesnt have calories, but it contains chemicals that spark the fuse that sets chronic diseases aflame, says Naomi Whittel, a certified nutritional consultant and author of Glow15: A Science-Backed Plan to Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, and Invigorate Your Life.
If youre on the fence about kicking your diet soda habit, keep reading for 15 science-backed reasons that will convince you to ditch dietfor good.
Diet Soda May Cause Insulin Confusion
The brain normally associates sweetwith calories. In the realm of human physiology, thats a good thing. It drivesyour body to release insulin as sugars chaperone to the cells to create fuel.In the past, people assumed this process could not occur when we consumed artificial sweeteners becausecalories dont follow the sweet flavor.
But, one study found the process could very well happen. In the study, individuals who consumed a specific artificial sweetener had increases in both insulin and blood glucose levels. Frequent rises in insulin have been linked to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Some research has even associated artificially sweetened sodas with increased risk of stroke.
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What About The Chemicals
My buddy said aspartame ingestion produces methanol and formaldehyde.”
Yes, thats formaldehyde as in the stuff used to preserve dead bodies.
Whist it is true that aspartame is broken down into methanol , as well as two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid – it is extremely unlikely to be detrimental to health.
Why? Well, the key is in the dosage.
Just because something has chemicals in it does not mean that it is harmful. Whether a chemical is natural or man-made doesnt tell you anything about how toxic it is.
There are many naturally occurring chemicals in plants that are extremely toxic to humans in small amounts. On the other hand, there are many man-made chemicals that are totally harmless to us, even when consumed in large quantities.
Does My Body Process Artificial Sweeteners Just Like Sugar
Another concern of drinking diet soda rests on the idea that your body processes high-intensity sweeteners as it would normal sugar.
The argument states that these sweeteners are so sweet that they fool your body into thinking itâs consuming actual sugar.
After drinking diet soda, your body responds as it would after consuming normal table sugar: by dumping out insulin. This slows down the fat-burning process.
Thatâs the gist of it, more or less.
Is it true?
Do high-intensity sweeteners trick our bodies into releasing hormones ?
Again, the studies on this are mixed:
- The high-intensity sweeteners sucralose and saccharin were both shown to provide a small insulin response in men.
- Aspartame does not appear to elicit the same hormone response.
This isnt a HUGE deal. Of all the things to worry about with regards to weight loss or getting healthy, this doesnât hold the top spot on the list.
While hormones do play a role in weight loss, the main determining factor will always be an energy balance .
Since most diet sodas have next to zero calories, Iâd say the insulin response of high-intensity sweeteners isnât that important for your weight loss journey.
There are far better targets in the quest to eat healthy, like eating lots of vegetables and eating enough protein at every meal.
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Can Diet Soda Cause Cancer
Some pretty serious claims have been made about the harmful side-effects of diet soda, linking it to high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia and even cancer. However, current studies simply aren’t conclusive, and these claims remain unverified. One important reason for this uncertainty is that no clinical trial has been conducted long enough to sufficiently shed light on the matter.
What we do know is that the most common artificial sweetener used in diet soda, aspartame, has been deemed safe for most people by the FDA and there’s no evidence that it causes serious harm. Two other common artificial sweeteners, stevia and sucralose, have also been judged safe for consumption.
If you’re concerned about the chemicals in diet soda and their impact on your health, consider cutting back on the amount you drink each day and, instead, opt for regular water or sparkling water.
Its Linked To Preterm Delivery And Childhood Obesity
Drinking diet soda while pregnant has been linked to some negative outcomes, including preterm delivery and childhood obesity.
A Norwegian study in 60,761 pregnant women found that intake of artificially sweetened and sugar-containing drinks was associated with an 11% higher risk of preterm delivery .
Earlier Danish research supports these findings. A study in almost 60,000 women found that women who consumed one serving of diet soda per day were 1.4 times more likely to deliver preterm than those who did not .
However, recent research in 8,914 women in England did not find any association between diet cola and preterm delivery. However, the authors admitted that the study may not have been big enough and had been limited to diet cola .
Its important to note that these studies were only observational and offer no explanation of exactly how diet soda may contribute to preterm birth.
Furthermore, consuming artificially sweetened drinks while pregnant is significantly associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity .
One study found that the daily consumption of diet drinks during pregnancy doubled the risk of a baby being overweight at 1 year of age .
Further research is needed to analyze the potential biological causes and long-term health risks for children exposed to artificially sweetened sodas in the womb.
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It Can Harm Your Heart
According to research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, men who drank two or more servings of Diet Coke had a 23% higher risk of developing heart failure. In the study, 42,400 men were tracked over 12 years and 3,604 cases of a positive association between sweetened beverage consumption and risk of heart failure were found. In addition, 509 people died of the condition.
The study did not differentiate between diet soda and regular soda but instead showed an equal amount of risk between both. Drinks included Diet Coke, Pepsi Max and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners.
Will Drinking Diet Soda Make Me Crave Actual Sugar
If you eat a bunch of sugary and sweet food regularly, your body can start to crave more of it.
In other words, consistently eating sugary foods in the afternoon can result in an urge for sweets after lunch.
These cravings can make it difficult to turn down the bowl of M& Mâs as you pass Debraâs desk .
The question becomes, do the high-intensity sweeteners found in diet soda make us crave sugary foods?
The research on this isnât clear:
- Studies done on rats have shown a positive correlation between high-intensity sweeteners and sugar cravings.
- A 2019 meta-analysis found two studies where aspartame was added directly to the diets of humans. The result? Those who consumed the high-intensity sweeteners found their sugar craving to be LOWER.
There might be something to the thought that drinking a Diet Coke can help satisfy the sugar craving.
As long as you remember: âcorrelation doesnât prove causation!â
Anecdotally, many of our coaching clients claim that grabbing a diet soda helps them from drinking the regular sugar-filled version. This can be really important, because âcravingsâ are one of the top issues facing most of our clients.
Which is why we work closely to identify possible food addictions in our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program, so we can start to work through them together. Our strategy is to take it slow, to make small changes to alter these cravings. Over time, this is the best way to see real progress.
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You May Have Increased Risk For Heart Disease
Whether regular or diet, research suggests that making soda sipping a habit is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and death from any cause, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis in the journal Nutrients. It’s possible that the sweet taste but zero calories from the drink degrades insulin function over time, perhaps contributing to poor metabolic health. Though the authors say that more high-quality evidence is needed on diet drinks to reach firm conclusions, they advise limiting both sugar-sweetened and diet versions for your best health.
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It’s not clear why artificial sweeteners might affect heart health, but some researchers think they may impact the microbiome and the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, causing adverse effects, Kris-Etherton said. That, in turn, could affect blood pressure and glucose status, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
This is kind of a very, very new and emerging area of science, but we’re beginning to realize the importance of the microbiome and overall health effects, she noted.
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The Case For Diet Soda: It Gets A Bad Rap But The Research Tells A Different Story
The nutrition community doesnt like diet soda. Of all the groups that make dietary recommendations, I cant find one that lends full-throated support. Limit low-calorie sodas, says the American Heart Association, and stick to water. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says its best to avoid artificial sweeteners. The Canadian dietary guidelines discourage them. The U.S. dietary guidelines are . Although added sugar is a top public health concern, diet soda is consistently met with something between distrust and hostility.
Ill try to answer that, but we have to begin with what is arguably the most important thing to know about low-calorie sweeteners: You consume them in teeny tiny quantities. Take sucralose, the ingredient in Splenda. The Food and Drug Administration has determined that the Acceptable Daily Intake is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, that means you can eat 340 milligrams, the amount in 28 packets of Splenda, every day.
The important number there is 340 milligrams about a third of a gram. If it were sugar, that would be one-third of a quarter-teaspoon.
Yikes! I asked him about those dangers, and the first thing he said was none of them are proven. Then he added, its all plausible. When I told him my read is that the evidence was practically nonexistent, he nodded vigorously.
What Are The Risks
While diet soft drinks are safe, they provide no nutrients. In addition to diet soda, the ADA recommends drinking water, unsweetened iced, or hot tea, and sparkling or infused water, which similarly have no calories and few nutrients.
Although they contain carbohydrates, milk and 100 percent fruit juices can be wise choices when you consider the nutrients they provide. Be sure to limit fruit juices due to their high natural sugar content.
A 2000 study published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine investigated the risks of drinking colas in youth.
The study found that drinking carbonated beverages was associated with bone fractures in teenage girls. Most of the girls drank regular sugar sweetened soda, while only 20 percent drank the diet version.
Although the same wasnt shown for boys, the study did raise concerns about replacing milk with soda during a critical time for bone development.
Diet soda consumption for adults only becomes problematic when the quantity consumed is very excessive. This can lead to higher intakes of caffeine if the beverages are caffeinated.
Replacing all water and dairy or 100 percent juice with diet soda in the diet can lead to missing essential nutrients.
The acceptable daily intake is the level of intake considered safe. For an adult weighing 150 pounds, the ADI is 20 twelve ounce soft drinks or 97 packets of no-calorie sweetener such as aspartame.
The negative press around aspartame is mostly based upon animal studies.
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Effects On Weight Loss Are Conflicting
Because diet soda is usually calorie-free, it would be natural to assume it could aid weight loss. However, research suggests the association may not be so straightforward.
Several observational studies have found that using artificial sweeteners and drinking high amounts of diet soda is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome (
One study had overweight participants drink 24 ounces of diet soda or water per day for 1 year. At the end of the study, the diet soda group had experienced an average weight loss of 13.7 pounds , compared with 5.5 pounds in the water group .
However, to add to the confusion, theres evidence of bias in the scientific literature. Studies funded by the artificial sweetener industry have been found to have more favorable outcomes than non-industry studies, which may undermine the validity of their results .
Overall, more high quality research is needed to determine the true effects of diet soda on weight loss.
Observational studies link diet soda with obesity. However, its not clear whether diet soda is a cause of this. Experimental studies show positive effects on weight loss, but these might be influenced by industry funding.
Healthy Alternatives To Water
Again, the best beverage to reach for when you have type 2 diabetes is plain water. But if you find it hard to drink eight cups of plain water a day, here are some ideas and alternatives that will help you reach your goal:
- Flavor filtered water by adding one or two slices of fresh fruit, such as lemon, lime, or orange, or a few berries, cucumber slices, or herbs like mint. Youll get the essence of the flavor without added calories or carbs.
- Make homemade iced tea by steeping herbal or green tea bags in hot water and then chilling. When you use a fruit-flavored tea bag to make your iced tea, you might even find it doesnt need additional sweetness. Not to mention, youll reap additional health benefits of green tea.
- Serve flavored sparkling waters in wine glasses with dinner. To take things to the next level, add a splash of tart cherry juice and a few fresh or frozen cherries as garnish.
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Is Diet Coke Bad For You
Making the switch from regular cola might seem like a healthy option but is Diet Coke bad for you?
Diet cola is one of the most popular soda options for those who want to enjoy a refreshing drink without the extra calories and sugar. But studies have found that diet sodas might not be as healthy as they’re portrayed. So is Diet Coke bad for you, and should we avoid it completely? The answer isn’t clear cut and as with most things, it comes down to moderation. Diet soda is certainly a better option than regular soda in terms of calories, but studies suggest that everyday consumption might be harmful to our health.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the number-one source of added sugars in the U.S. diet is sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, tea and fruit drinks. Hence, as a population, we need to look at reducing the amount of added sugars were taking in.
On one hand, switching from regular Coke to Diet can help with this, allowing people to enjoy a soft drink without added sugar. Regular soda also contains empty calories that offer no nutritional benefit. Since Diet Coke is a low calorie alternative, it can be a better option.
Sharon Parten Fowler is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, at UT Health San Antonio. She earned a BA from Rice University and an MPH from the UTSPH in Houston.
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You May Experience Tooth Erosion Or Discoloration
We’ve all been told that eating too much sugar can wreak havoc on dental health, as excessive amounts of sugar are linked to an increased risk of dental cavities. While it is true that skipping sugary soda can help you keep cavity development at bay, reaching for a can of diet soda can open your chompers up to other issues.
“The acidity in certain types of diet soda can lead to tooth erosion,” according to Keith Wolfe, D.M.D., a dentist based in Greenacres, Florida. He explained that, over time, tooth erosion can result in pain and sensitivity.
In addition to bathing your mouth in an acidic environment, some varieties of diet soda contain coloring that may stain teeth. “Over time, drinking excessive amounts of diet soda made with caramel coloring may result in teeth turning yellow,” explained Jack Hirschfeld, D.D.S., a clinical instructor at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine’s School of Dental Medicine. “The combination of the acidic environment the soda creates along with the food dye can increase a person’s chances of experiencing tooth discoloration,” he added.
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