Why Is Diet Soda Bad For You?

November 15, 2013

Can of Diet Coke

We all know that the one of the worst things about drinking regular soda is the sugar, so sugar free diet soda seems like a logical alternative right? Maybe not. Over the past few years there have been quite a few studies that imply that that diet soda is actually bad for us over the long run.

There have been a variety of claims over the years (some proven and some nonsense) as to why diet soda is so bad for us, but let’s take a look at a few so that you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to pick up that can of Diet Coke or find something else to drink.

Increased Weight Gain

No, that’s not a typo! Diet soda can actually make you GAIN weight if you drink it for a long period of time.

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According to a study performed by the University of Texas Health Science Center drinking diet soda more frequently has been correlated to a larger waist line. That study also determined that the sweetener aspartame increased blood sugar (glucose) levels in mice, implying that the same could be possible in humans.

There has been some opposition to these findings, citing the small sample sizes used and the fact that parts of the test were done with mice and not humans, but there have been similar studies done in the past that show similar results so at the very least it’s worth taking in to consideration if you’re dieting.

Increased Risk of Heart Attack

According to an American Stroke Association study of people who drank diet soda at least once a day they had an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other “vascular diseases”. The study followed around 2,500 New Yorkers for close to a decade and found that over 60% of them had a higher risk of vascular events.

As a resident New Yorker I would add that this state is one of the most stressful places to live in the world so I’m not at all surprised that they had an increased likelihood of stroke or heart attack. I’m taking these results with a grain of salt, but then again I’m not a scientist so what do I know? :)

Increased Risk of PreTerm Birth

There was also a study of Danish doctors published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that saw an increase in preterm birth rates for those women who drank diet soda, but there was no increase in those that drank regular, sugared soda. Despite the study Dr. Thorhallur I. Halldorsson who led the study said that “one observational study is not enough to justify strong statements” and there is a need for additional studies in this area.

Aspartame Side Effects

One of the most controversial ingredients in diet soda is the sweetener aspartame which was originally approved by the FDA in 1974. There have been literally hundreds of suspected side effects from aspartame since then, ranging anywhere from migraine headaches to brain cancer.

Despite the large number of claims about aspartame, the majority of claims have been disallowed by the FDA due to flaws in the testing of the sweetener. Despite the FDA rulings however many states and countries have proposed bills to eliminate the use of aspartame, and some stores in the UK have stopped using it all together. Many sodas have also switched to alternative sweeteners like Splenda which have a less controversial track record.

Personally the sheer number of claims about the sweetener it’s enough to make me think where there is smoke there is fire with this stuff. There may or may not be anything wrong with aspartame, but the fact that it’s a chemical made in a lab somewhere, combined with all of the claims about all of the bad things it can do to me, is enough to make me just avoid it entirely.

So Is Diet Soda Bad For You?

So far there is no evidence to prove that diet soda is 100% bad for you, but there is certainly a lot of controversy about it. Quite frankly anything that involves the possibility of getting brain cancer (whether proven or not) makes me think twice about drinking it, and the fact that it might spike insulin and make me fatter on top of it? I think I’ll just grab a glass of water instead!

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