When it comes to drinking soda, consuming diet over regular would seem to be a healthful swap and reasonably so. Especially compared to the whopping average of 35 to 40 grams per one 12-ounce regular soda can, zero sugars in diet soda seems to be the best route. Interestingly, though, health experts and research suggests otherwise. So what are the effects of diet soda on health and why is it bad for you?

Is Diet Soda Bad for You?

In general, diet soda certainly can be harmful to your health in multiple ways. Even with short-term or consistent use, the intake of this “diet” soda may exhibit the following consequences:

  • Interestingly, artificial sweeteners taste sweeter than real sugar. Though the two are vastly different in chemical structure, artificial sweetener may trick the body into believing sugar is present. When the body senses sugar, it releases insulin and may send the body into a fat storage mode, mostly encouraging weight gain.
  • Tagging along with the potential weight gain mentioned above, research further supports the concept, suggesting diet soda may contribute to increased waist circumference (WC), more so than non-diet soda drinkers. In general, women with a WC greater than 35 inches and men with a WC over 40 inches are at an increased risk of developing a chronic disease.
  • Though one diet soda each day seems moderated, doing so can increase the risk of high blood sugars (hyperglycemia). Interestingly, individuals demonstrated pre-diabetic glucose levels after introducing artificial sweetener into their diet, even within a few days! Additionally, individuals with a large intake of artificial sweeteners indicated slightly higher glycated hemoglobin (also abbreviated as HbA1C) levels compared to those without or a lack-of artificial sweetener consumption. HbA1C measures average glucose concentrations across a three-month span.
  • If waist circumference exceeds a healthy limit and diabetes develops, individuals are at risk of metabolism syndrome – a condition characterized by excess fat around the waist, high blood sugar and pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The cluster of symptoms increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Even at a young age, it was stressed sugar can compromise good oral health. But the sugarless beverage still has the potential to do so relative to its citric acid content, which may weaken and destroy tooth enamel. Find more on diet soda and dental care here.
  • Though aspartame has not been scientifically proven to trigger migraines, it is not uncommon for individuals to suggest the direct link. And though mostly self-reported, individuals claim alleviation from migraine symptoms subside after discontinuing its use.
  • But the consequences of drinking diet soda may not just be physiological, but psychological as well. When drinking diet over regular soda, you are saving on calories. But if saving on liquid calories, you may feel more endowed to justify an extra slice of pizza – compared to a 140-calorie soda, a slice of pizza can provide hundreds of calories. This phenomenon suggests individuals may actually be overeating calories when they believe they are saving them by switching to diet.

What Now?

When it really comes down to diet soda, and even in the absence of calories, it holds no nutritional value whatsoever. The ultimate no-calorie beverage points to water, as it provides mass benefits to the body. And if desiring the fizzy bubbles of diet soda, try sparkling water. And if further craving the sweetness of soda, naturally flavor tap or sparkling water with fresh lemon, lime, or these refreshing creations!

Reference: Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. Available at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nature13793.pdf.