Food Myths: The Truth Behind Diet Soda

Let’s begin with this quote. “I don’t believe in ‘diet’ sodas. Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke are still sodas. If you’re on a diet, why are you drinking soda?” I am going to go out on a limb and say that most Americans are not nutrition experts. So, when we hear of a new fad, trend, or see a label proclaiming ‘DIET’ on the front, we tend to automatically assume that product is the better choice. It is no surprise that when someone decides to tackle a diet, they switch from normal soda to diet soda, thinking it will be the healthier option. However, like the above quote states, soda is soda. Not only is diet soda not the “healthier” option of the two, but the effects can also be worse.

The main reason people switch over to diet soda is because of the calorie count. The less calories the better, right? Why waste 140 calories on a can of soda when you could still have a soda with 0 calories and put that 140 towards something more nutritious? The problem is, to have zero calories, real sugars are replaced with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

Studies show that these artificial sweeteners tend to have the same effect on our bodies as real sugar. In a study done by RD Brooke Alpert, she found that “Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain.” There was also a study done by the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. They compared diet soda users to non-users and discovered a 70% increases in waist circumference in those who drank the soda. Even more shocking, there was a 500% increase in those who had 2 or more a day. The average waistline increase was 3 inches in 4 years. While you may not be taking in any calories, you’re not drinking something that benefits your body in a good way either. If you want a non-caloric beverage, try sticking with water.

Not only does diet soda cause weight gain, but it is also extremely acidic. It is even more acidic than just a regular soda. We know that too much acid in our system can disrupt the balance of our intestines and destroy important gut flora. This leads to some not so fun side effects such as acid reflux.

Finally, is metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association did a study over diet soda consumption and the results should leave everyone hesitant when making the final decision on whether to drink one. Results of the study showed daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36% greater relative risk of incident metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater relative risk of incident type 2 diabetes compared with non-consumption (HR 1.36 [95% CI 1.11–1.66] for metabolic syndrome and 1.67 [1.27–2.20] for type 2 diabetes). This shows that caution needs to be taken when consuming these beverages. Metabolic syndrome can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to increased belly fat, which we already know is an effect of diet soda, and high cholesterol.

If you are trying to make the decision between diet or non-diet, you can now clearly see that just a regular soda is the way to go. Diet soda causes weight gain, high acid levels, and increases your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  However, if you are serious about trying to have a healthier lifestyle or lose weight, no soda is a good option too. Remember, there is nothing “diet” about diet soda.

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