Diet Sodas--Are They Bad for Your
Health?
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March 7, 2009, last updated July 20, 2014


By Allison Burgess, Contributing Columnist

Zero calories?! Wow! “This diet version of my favorite soft
drink is harmless,” you say to yourself. Diet sodas have become
a staple beverage for an estimated 59% of the US population,
according to the Calorie Control Council. Those soda tabs get
popped open time and time again in order to tame that sweet
tooth without adding the extra calories. But is that really what
is happening?

Technically, yes. The Food and Drug Administration allows any
product with less than 5 calories per serving to be labeled as a
"zero calorie" product. For example, a 12 ounce Diet Coke has
just over 1 calorie. The minimal calories you consume when
drinking a diet soda are not a cause for alarm.  But there are
other side effects that come along with enjoying your “calorie-
free” beverage, and consumers should learn to read between
the lines.


Artificial sweeteners are no stranger in the news. They have
been tested and retested and used in hundreds of studies, but
sufficient evidence does not exist in order to claim that any are
directly harmful to your health. You can read the latest on
artificial sweeteners in another of collectivewizdom’s articles
here.































1. Diet Sodas Can Make You Gain Weight. Two major recent
studies performed by Purdue University and The University of
Texas Health Science Center have shed light on indirect effects
of diet soft drinks. While Purdue focused on rats and the
University of Texas focused on humans, both studies turned
out results showing diets rich in artificial sweeteners can lead
to weight gain. Why?

Turns out it’s much harder to trick your body than you might
have believed. When you give your body a sweet fix that it
registers as sugar, it assumes that calories are part of the
package. When those calories do not appear, the body craves
even more calories than before. Therefore, these new studies
suggest that diet sodas can stimulate your appetite, causing
you to eat more and gain weight.

Let’s look at some other ingredients in diet soft drinks:
•        Sodium: Few diet drinks have more than 50mg of sodium
(a little over 2% of your nutritional daily value), but that can
be just enough to worsen your thirst craving even after having
downed an entire soda. Keep in mind that no soft drink will
quench your thirst as well as water.

•        Caffeine: You may feel as though the caffeine has given
you a little push in the middle of your day, but it is actually
more likely to cause fatigue once you sink down from the
expected “sugar high.” Fatigue leads to less energy which will
in turn lead to less exercise.

•        
Carbonation: The gas in diet sodas can cause more than
unattractive belching. When drinking a soda, carbon dioxide is
released into your intestines and stomach and can result in
painful and uncomfortable bloating. Gas in sodas has also been
linked in studies with increased bone loss, osteoporosis and
arthritis pain due to de-mineralization of your bones.

•        Caramel Coloring: Past studies have shown that the
caramel coloring used in soft drinks such as Diet Coke and Diet
Pepsi can weaken the function of the immune system. Even if
there is not enough evidence to ban food coloring, it should be
understood that there is absolutely zero nutritional value in the
additives used in diet soft drinks.

2.
Diet Sodas Can Increase Your Risk for Heart Disease and
Heart Attacks
.  A 2007 study led by Dr. Vasan Ramachandran  
of Boston University School of Medicine discovered that
drinking diet sodas can lead to an increase in your risk for
developing blood pressure.

The study covered 9000 observations of middle-aged men and
women from Framingham, Massachusetts. The researchers
found that those who drink one or more diet or regular sodas a
day have an up to 60% greater risk of developing metabolic
syndrome, which in turn increases your risk for having high
blood pressure and heart disease.

As Dr. Ramachandran noted:“We were struck by the fact that it
didn’t matter whether it was a diet or regular soda that
participants consumed, the association with increased risk was
present,” said Ramachandran Vasan, MD, senior author of the
Framingham Heart Study and professor of medicine at Boston
University School of Medicine. “In those who drink one or more
soft drinks daily, there was an association of an increased risk
of developing the metabolic syndrome.”

A new 2012 study completed by researchers from the
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has discovered
that people who drink diet sodas are 44% more likely to suffer
a heart attack.  However, a word of caution. These results do
not establish a cause and effect -- they don't prove that diet
sodas
cause heart attacks. They only prove and association
between diet sodas and heart attacks.

Those who drink diet sodas may have other unhealthy habits
which actually cause their heart attack risk to rise. Thus, more
study is needed to shed light on this intriguing link between
diet sodas and heart attacks.

3.
Diet Sodas Raise Your Risk for Stroke. A 2011 study has
found that
those who drink diet sodas have a 61% higher risk
of stroke.


So, are diet sodas bad for you? Perhaps we should end with
another question: Are they good for you? This question can be
answered with an absolute, bold NO.

Diet soft drinks contain zero nutritional value and have been
linked to only negative side effects. However, switching back to
the original Coca-Cola or Pepsi is not the answer. Try to
incorporate other beverages in your diet: water, real fruit juice,
and low-fat milk to name a few. If the change is too drastic to
make in own big swoop, then work on decreasing the number
of diet sodas in your daily diet. Studies show you will notice a
difference…for the better.


4.
Diet Sodas Have Been Linked with Larger Waist Sizes. A
2011 study from epidemiologists at the University of Texas
Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine has
found a strong association between diet soda consumption and
your waist size. The study followed 474 people for an average
of 9.5 years.  After adjusting for the effects of diabetes,
exercise,age, place of residence and smoking status, the
researchers discovered that those who drink diet sodas had  
70% larger waist sizes than those who did not drink diet
sodas.  Moreover, people who drank 2 or more diet sodas a
day had waist sizes that were 6 times larger than those who
did not. (Read more about
what is a normal waist size for men
and women of different heights. )

While these results are startling, left unanswered is the
question of how total calories eaten each day may have
affected this result. In other words, it unclear whether those
who drank diet sodas were eating significantly more than those
who did not.

Update:

5.
Caffeinated Soda Has Been Linked to Lower Sperm Count.
Caffeinated soda, whether or not it's diet, has been linked to
lower sperm count in a Danish study. The study was conducted
in 2010 by researchers at the Rigshospitalet in Denmark. After
examining the sperm counts of 2,554 Danish men, the
researchers discovered that those who drank the most soda
had a 30% lower sperm count than those who drank the least
soda.



Related:
Diet Sodas Linked to Stroke

Coca-Cola Can Dissolve Stomach Blockages?
Sugar The Disease Connection
Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics
Foods That Lower Your Blood Sugar
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