Last week we discussed the various possible dangers of a diet that contains excessive sugared soft drinks and sodas. Today we we will discuss diet soft drinks and their effect on our bodies.
Diet drinks and soda seem like a dieter’s dream. Instead of sugar, these beverages are artificially sweetened with aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin, acesulfame-k or sucralose to allow a near calorie free beverage. Almost every popular sugar-sweetened beverage company on the market has a “light” or a “diet” version to entice consumers.
Years ago, I used to drink diet soda and think that I was doing something “healthy” for my body but I rarely if at all consume them now. There is just too much evidence mounting every day, that diet soft drinks/soda aren’t the low calorie miracle we once thought.
While the experts warn us about the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages, diet soda is more popular than ever with children who are now consuming these products at over double the rate of the last decade according to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Among adults, their consumption has grown almost 25%.
So what’s really happening to your body when you consume these products?
THEY MAKE YOU FATTER
While the main reason you are consuming these drinks may be to lose or control weight they can actually have the opposite effect! Long term diet soda drinkers on average have a 70% greater increase in waist circumference compared with non-drinkers. Research has shown that people who consume two or more diet sodas a day experienced a 500% greater waist circumference increase.
As the body cannot tell the difference between regular sugar and artificial sugar, when consumed your body only detects “sweet” and equates that to sugar entering the body resulting in a triggering of insulin into your blood stream which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain.
Another reason for unwanted weight gain can also result from a false sense of you having “extra calories” to spend on eating which then results in overeating and weight gain.
YOU’RE MORE AT RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES & METABOLIC SYNDROME
Drinking even one diet soft drink/soda a day was associated with a 36% increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in a University of Minnesota study. Metabolic syndrome encompasses a host of conditions including high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, high cholesterol and a large waist circumference that put people at high risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
A 14 year French study of 66,118 French women found that women who regularly consumed the highest volume of diet drinks had a 121% greater risk of developing type II diabetes. A data analysis from two large Harvard studies also confirmed an increased risk for women who consumed a daily serving of diet soda with a raised diabetes risk of 6%.
YOUR KIDNEYS MAY GET DAMAGED
Over 11 years, a Harvard Medical School study of over 3,000 women found that diet cola is associated with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline when women drank more than two diet soft drinks/sodas a day.
IT CAN MAKE YOU MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO DISEASES OF THE BOWEL AND GUT
Regular consumption of diet sodas can increase the PH level of your gut and destroy good bacteria in your colon which is essential for good health. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health discovered that sucralose does increases the pH level in your intestines, reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50 percent. That is a huge amount! As the sucralose alters your gut bacteria and inactivates digestive enzymes such as protease, it also alters gut barrier function. Regular consumption of diet soda, particularly sweetened with sucralose can increase your risk of IBS and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
YOU’RE MORE PRONE TO HEADACHES
For people susceptible to migraines and headaches there is some evidence that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may trigger headaches in some people.
YOUR PEARLY WHITES MAY GET DAMAGED
A lot of us think that we are probably saving our teeth from sugary tooth decay when drinking diet drinks but a study published in the journal General Dentistry revealed that when they compared the mouths of a cocaine-user, a methamphetamine-user, and a habitual diet-soda drinker they found the same level of tooth erosion in each of them! The culprit here is citric acid, which weakens and destroys tooth enamel over time.
YOUR REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM COULD BE HARMED
All drink cans whether diet or not are coated with the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to everything from heart disease to obesity to reproductive problems. A Denmark study of 59,334 pregnant women found that 1 serving per day of diet drinks was associated with a 38% increased risk of pre-term delivery while 4 servings per day increased the risk by 78%!
YOUR CELLS COULD BE BADLY DAMAGED
Diet sodas contain the preservatives sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate and they’re in nearly all diet sodas. These preservatives have the ability to cause serious severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it. These preservatives have also been linked to hives, asthma, and other allergic conditions. While some companies have phased out sodium benzoate and replaced it with the preservative potassium benzoate both preservatives are classified by the Food Commission in the UK as mild irritants to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
WHEN USED WITH ALCOHOL AS A MIXER IS CAN HAVE DANGEROUS EFFECTS
Using diet soda as a cocktail mixer can get you drunk faster than sugar-sweetened beverages. A Northern Kentucky University study revealed that participants who consumed cocktails mixed with diet drinks had a higher breath alcohol concentration than those who drank alcohol blended with sugared beverages. The researchers believe this is because our bloodstream is able to absorb artificial sweetener more quickly than sugar.
IT MAY INCREASE YOUR RISK OF DEPRESSION
A 10 year study by the American Academy of Neurology found that people who drank more than four cups or cans of soda (regardless whether they were sugar or diet drinks) a day were 30% more likely to develop depression than those who steered clear of such beverages. The correlation was the same for both regular and diet drinks, however the risk appeared to be greater for those who primarily drank diet sodas and fruit punches. Although the study did not prove cause and effect, its findings to mental health are worth considering.
IT CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOUR BONES
While women over 60 are already at a greater risk for osteoporosis than men, Tufts University researchers found that drinking either regular or diet soda/soft drinks, compounds the problem. Female cola drinkers had a nearly 4% lower bone mineral density in their hips than women who didn't consume any type of soda. The research even went as far as to control the participants' calcium and vitamin D intake to keep the variables even for all. Another 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that specifically cola drinks, whether diet or sugar based, was associated with a low bone-mineral density in women.
YOUR HEART COULD BE AFFECTED
Just one diet soft drink a day could boost your risk of having a vascular event such as stroke, heart attack or vascular death. A University of Miami and Columbia University study found that diet soda devotees were 43% more likely to have experienced a vascular (heat-related) event (attack/stroke/etc.) than those who drank none. Researchers say more studies need to be conducted before definitive conclusions can be made about diet soda's effects on health.
While the occasional diet soda will probably do little harm in an overall balanced diet, they do not add anything to a healthy diet and are best avoided. If you have to go for artificially sweetened drinks or soda try to find one that is sweetened with stevia which is the only proven safe sweetener to date.