Diet sodas have become extremely popular in recent decades particularly amongst those who love to drink a soda but worry about the sugar content. They feel that when they drink a diet soda, they are going for the healthier option.
Nothing could be further from the truth
Diet Coke is the number one selling diet soda in the world – very available and very cheap - but packed into that brightly colored can is a frightening cocktail of toxins and potential disease.
It may be tempting to save some calories with diet sodas - and millions of Americans take that risk - but the cost may be worth more than the benefit. These diet sodas are marketed towards health-conscious people, diabetics, athletes and those who want to lose weight, improve physical fitness, or reduce their sugar intake but an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and titled - Artificially Sweetened Beverages Cause for Concern -
the notion that artificial sweeteners are risk free is challenged.
The article’s author, David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, a Harvard professor and Founding Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) clinic at Children’s Hospital, Boston, makes three important points when he says:
“1. Our body gets confused by artificial sweeteners – the dissociation between sweet taste and calorie intake may put the regulatory system that controls hunger and body weight out of sync, thus sabotaging weight loss plans. A study on rodents showed that those fed saccharin actually gained weight compared to rodents fed sucrose.
“2. We’re “Infantilizing” our taste sense – artificial sweeteners are a hundredfold sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). By getting ourselves used to so much sweet, normal sweet flavors, of fruit for example, become bland and so do other healthful foods such as grains and vegetables, thus reducing our willingness to consume them and ultimately the quality of our diet.
“3. Long term effects unclear – while there have been many studies on artificial sweeteners and disease such cancer, very few focused on long term weight gain. A seven year study (San Antonio Heart Study) showed a relationship between diet drink consumption and obesity, but the causation is not clear. Consumption of artificial sweeteners is growing yearly
The general public are the guinea pigs for a public health experiment
And you can take out a small wager that they won't be good.
Different artificial sweeteners are used instead of sugar to give diet soda a sweet taste and some are often used simultaneously. According to Wikipedia, here are the different and historical sweeteners that have been used in diet sodas in the past decades:
“Aspartame is commonly known by the brand name NutraSweet and is one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners. The 1982 introduction of aspartame-sweetened Diet Coke accelerated this trend. Today, at least in the United States, "diet" is nearly synonymous with the use of aspartame in beverages.
Cyclamates were the first artificial sweeteners used in diet soda (often synergestically with saccharin). While many say these cyclamate-sweetened sodas had a more pleasant taste than the diet soda that followed them, in 1970 the FDA banned cyclamates in the US based on evidence that they caused cancer in lab rats. Cyclamates are still used in many countries around the world, including for diet soda.
Saccharin alone was often criticized for having a bitter taste and "chemical" aftertaste. Some manufacturers, such as Coca-Cola with Tab, attempted to rectify this by adding a small amount of sugar. In 1977, the FDA was petitioned to ban saccharin, too, as a carcinogen, but a moratorium was placed on the ban until studies were conducted. The ban was lifted in 1991, but by that time, virtually all diet soda production had shifted to using aspartame. Perhaps the most notable holdout is Tab, which nevertheless also uses some aspartame in its formula.
Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium have come into growing use, particularly by smaller beverage producers (eg Big Red). Diet Rite is the non-aspartame diet soda brand with the highest sales today; it uses a combination of sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Advocates say drinks employing these sweeteners have a more natural sugar-like taste than those made just with aspartame, and do not have a strong aftertaste. The newer aspartame-free drinks can also be safely consumed by phenylketonurics, because they do not contain phenylalanine. Critics say the taste is not better, merely different, or note that the long-term health risks of all or certain artificial sweeteners is unclear.
The widespread, though not universal, agreement that the newest formulations taste much more "normal" (sugar-like) than the older diet sodas have prompted some producers, such as Jones Soda, to abandon the "diet" label entirely in favor of "sugar-free soda," implying that the taste is good enough to drink the soda even when not trying to lose weight. (This idea was first floated by Diet Coke in 1984, with the tagline, "Just For the Taste of It."). In 2005, the Coca-Cola Company announced it would produce a new formulation of Diet Coke sweetened with sucralose, to be called Diet Coke with Splenda, but it would continue to produce the aspartame version as well. There were also rumors that a sugar-free version of Coca-Cola Classic, also sweetened with sucralose, was being formulated as well. This formulation was eventually called Coca-Cola Zero, though it is sweetened with aspartame in conjunction with acesulfame potassium.”
Billions of cases of soda are sold every year – a normal soda has the equivalent of 9 teaspoons of sugar so in light of the high percentage of overweight or obese in the US, many changed their habit to diet soda in an attempt to save calories. To them the “diet soda” route seemed sensible but in fact it can be a danger to your health and even leads to overweight and obesity. A large scale study from the University of Texas Health Science Center found that those consuming diet soda had a greater risk of obesity than those who consumed regular soda.
For each can of diet soda consumed daily, the risk of obesity increased by 41%
In addition to the risk of weight gain, there are many other unhealthy components in diet sodas:
- Caffeine, sodium and phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid is linked to bone density loss and increased fracture risk in young female athletes.
- Aspartame is responsible for 75 percent of adverse food ingredient reactions reported to the FDA, which has a list of 90 documented symptoms. examples include: headaches, nausea, memory loss, depression, fatigue, vision problems, anxiety attacks, rashes, heart palpitations, insomnia, slurred speech, joint pain, etc. This list is from the organization that approved its use in the 1980s and it is in over 6,000 products apart from diet sodas. One of the components of aspartame is wood alcohol, which is a toxin that metabolizes into formaldehyde. It is known to kill certain neurons (brain cells) and is particularly harmful to pregnant women, kids, the aged and those with certain chronic conditions. In addition, it fits into the category of what is known as an excitotoxin; it literally excites neurons until they reach an extreme state of fatigue.
How to wean yourself from drinking diet and other sodas?
Although you might not want to face the truth, our bodies do not need any other liquid but water but this switch can be particularly difficult for many. You can make a start by watering down juice, limiting your intake of a soda to just a certain time during the day or the week and rather reaching for juicy fruits whenever you feel the need – make sure you keep plenty of fruit available for these snack times.
It is not always easy to kick the diet soda habit.