When we hear the word “diet” our immediate thoughts run to weight loss and eating less. Diet soda is no different. Many people think that because the label has the word diet on it that it is healthier than regular soda, or that it will promote weight loss.
Wouldn’t that be a great thing? Drinking soda and losing weight? However, by definition, the word diet actually means the foods and liquids we consume. You can change your diet, which means you change the type or amounts of foods you take in. This can lead to weight loss (if you eat less) or weight gain (if you eat more).
However, the word itself has nothing to do with our weight nor its loss or gain. So, what is the appeal of diet cola? Will it help us lose weight? Is it healthier than regular soda? We will dive into these topics and more in the article below.
Is Diet Soda Healthy?
In short, the answer is that diet soda is not healthy for you. It is not even healthier than regular soda. So why do we drink it?
Part of the reason is the lack of calories. Instead of sugar, most diet colas are sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Splenda or Sweet-N-Low are common replacements, and they contain zero calories. In turn, the diet suds contains zero calories, and we tend to think that no calories means that the food is healthier.
The main issue is that diet sodas are still soda, and no soda is a healthy alternative to water, unsweetened tea or even fruit juice. Often when we drink zero-calorie sodas we find ourselves replacing the calories elsewhere, usually at a fast-food drive-through.
Our brains have grown accustomed to associating junk food with sweet drinks. So it is justified to have french fries as long as you also have a diet soda. However, studies have shown that drinking diet cola will actually cause 65% of us to gain weight over the next decade.
Diet Soda Causes Cancer
This way of thinking has caused a lot of commotion over recent years. Cancer is a real and viable threat. It is a nasty disease, and we have great efforts in identifying and eliminating cancer-causing agents. Given enough time and enough guesswork and everything we create will eventually cause cancer if you ask the right people.
Diet cola is no different. However, the concern of cancer-related to diet drinks is once again in the artificial sweetener. While no study can blatantly prove artificial sweeteners cause cancer, there is still some risk.
Will We Lose Weight Drinking Diet Cola?
Here is the answer: no. Diet soda is not designed to help us lose weight. The idea behind weight loss and the diet cola market is due to the lack of calories. However, with the long list of ingredients needed to create diet cola, and (yes, once again) artificial sweeteners, actually cause our bodies to create and store more fat than regular sodas.
Losing weight from changing what you drink is not very likely to happen. To lose weight, you need to change your diet to a smaller portion, healthier balanced alternative. Cutting out sugars, especially artificial ones, as well as increasing your intake of grains, fruits and vegetables will go a long way to dropping pounds.
You will also need to be active. Sedentary lifestyles are not prone to much, if any, weight loss. Keeping your current lifestyle and just changing your regular soda for a diet one isn’t going to do anything to make you lose weight. In these instances, it can actually increase your overall weight gain.
Diet Cola and Health Issues
Since diet cola’s introduction as a soda alternative, people have experienced vast arrays of health concerns. Studies begin conducting the correlation between health risks and diet colas, and there have been some links to some serious issues. Although no study can completely say with 100 percent accuracy that diet soda was the sole cause of the health issues, the correlation is alarming.
If you drink more than four cans of diet cola a day, you have a 30 percent increase in the likelihood of being depressed. Research has suggested that this risk is higher than those that drink regular soda.
One study found that diet cola is linked to long term cardiovascular disease. After making adjustments for such things as age, weight, smoking, diet, and exercise, diet cola drinkers over a ten-year period were found to have a higher risk of death from a cardiovascular event or suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Type 2 Diabetes
If you drink diet soda daily, you should be alerted to the study from the Diabetes Care journal. In this study, scientists found that daily diet cola drinkers were 67 percent more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
Diet cola has also been found to alter the microbes in our digestive tract and can lead to metabolic diseases. This includes a glucose intolerance, meaning you can actually become sick from ingesting glucose, which our bodies make and need.
A study conducted at Harvard over a twenty-year period found that regular drinkers of diet drinks saw a decrease in kidney function by over 30 percent. Kidney failure and kidney-related health issues and diseases were also found during the long-term study.
The only correlating factor in the participants was regular consumption of diet colas.
What Happens If You Stop Drinking Diet Sodas?
While there have been numerous studies done on the effects of diet colas, and in particular the artificial sweeteners they are comprised of, not a single one can claim for certain that diet cola is better, worse or the same for your body as regular soda.
However, humans are different while still being one in the same. What may work for one person may not work for another. What is interesting though, is the correlation between stopping drinking and the effects it has on our bodies.
Diabetic journals have tested and found that when we drink diet suds before consuming food, our pancreas secretes a hormone that promotes storage of fatty tissues. This leads us to believe that drinking diet cola with meals will actually make our bodies store more fat than if we drank non-diet drinks.
Kidney Function Returns
Aside from the aspartame and other artificial sweeteners found in diet colas, the other ingredients used to make it taste like regular soda affect our kidneys. By eliminating these other ingredients, our kidneys have shown an increase in functionality, stabilized blood pressure and better toxin clearing.
What should be mentioned is that the elimination of diet cola from your current diet has not been scientifically proven to increase kidney function, just that a correlation between ceasing diet soda intake and kidney function does exist.
Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis
It has been surmised that daily intake of diet cola has an increased effect on our bones, particularly those in women. 14 percent of post-menopausal women who drink diet cola have an increased risk of hip fractures. Also, women who regularly drink diet drinks have a decrease in bone density.
The science suggests that stopping diet cola intake can slow down these effects. However, it should also be noted the same can be said of regular soda as well.
Taste Buds Improve
It is known that aspartame is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, and sucralose is over 600 times sweeter. This points to evidence that our taste buds grow accustomed to the overdose of sweetness and tend not to register other flavors as well.
By eliminating diet drinks from your diet, your taste buds can then concentrate on other flavors and improve your tastes. It was found that stopping diet cola for 30 days made food more enjoyable, better food choices made and when diet cola was tasted again, it was found to be too sweet to be enjoyed.
Science is still doing studies. Society is still trying to make up facts from partial data. The truth is we don’t know for certain that diet cola has any ill effects on us, or that the effect it does have is better or worse than regular soda.
However, while the studies may not yet be complete, and the data still coming in, research has shown those diet drinks are not healthier for us than regular sodas. You can become depressed, gain a little weight and have decreased kidney function. This may be in part to drinking diet cola regularly, and it may be some other factor.
If you drink diet soda, you should be aware of the risks. It should be in moderation, as with everything else, and never overdone. You will be able to tell if changing your diet cola habits will benefit you or not. If you are unsure, you can always have your doctor test your blood sugar, kidney functions, and moods before diet cola cessation and after to see if there is a marked difference for you or not.