Is it good for me? Diet Soda Edition

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Dr. Yeargin, Is it good for me?

Diet soda

                Today the things we eat and drink have become more and more processed in an attempt to give the population a quick, easy, and tasty option. With labels on products that are so complicated you practically have to be a chemist to decipher them, more often than not we are consuming products that hold little, if any, nutritious value. Are these products doing us any serious harm, or are they merely harmless indulgences?

The following are some of the reported effects of drinking diet soda:

Do you think that drinking diet soda will lead to decreased weight? Well a study done at the University of Texas Health Science Center found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater the risk of them becoming overweight. Drinking two or more cans a day lead to an increase in waistlines by 500%. Over ten years, diet drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference when compared to non-drinkers. The culprit is said to be the artificial sweeteners in the diet drinks that disrupt the regulation of the body’s calorie intake. The body loves sugar, and when artificial flavoring tricks the body into thinking it’s consuming it, it wants more. This can lead to overeating and obesity.

Diet soda is classified as an acid because it has a pH of approximately 3.2 and it is this acidity that dissolves the enamel of teeth. A University of Michigan dental analysis showed that drinkers of three or more sodas a day had worse dental health, including more missing teeth, more fillings, and greater tooth decay.

Diet soda may be causing kidney problems. According to a Harvard Medical School study in which 3,000 women took part in an eleven year study. Researchers found that diet soda was associated with a 2-fold increased risk for kidney decline. The kidney’s function began to decline in women who drank more than two sodas a day. This association is not seen in studies looking at sugar sweetened drinks, so researchers believe it has to do with sweeteners used in diet drinks.

In a study done in 2008 on 10,000 adults, researchers found that even drinking one diet drink a day was linked to a 36% higher risk of metabolic syndrome. The complications of metabolic syndrome include belly fat and cholesterol levels that put you at risk for heart disease. Although the link is not clear, this is a study that shows high correlation of metabolic syndrome and consumption of diet drinks.

According to a study done at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia, alcohol mixed with diet drinks gets you more intoxicated, and faster. When alcohol is mixed with non-sugar mixers it enters the bloodstream quicker. This can damage the body and lead to negative decisions, and not to mention a terrible hangover.

We know that diet sodas contain things that regular sodas do not. If you read the labels you might see the words potassium benzoate or sodium benzoate. These ingredients are mold inhibitors and can cause severe damage to DNA in mitochondria, thought of as the powerhouse of the cell, often by completely inactivating it. The preservatives are also linked to asthma, hives, and other allergic conditions. Some diet drinks have phased out these ingredients in favor of others such as potassium benzoate, which is classified as a mild irritant to eyes, skin, and the mucus membrane by the United Kingdom’s Food Commission. Always check the label to see what you’re really drinking.

Don’t forget about the containers that deliver your soda fix. Beverages sometimes come in cans that may be coated with bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an endocrine disrupter and is linked to heart disease, obesity, and reproductive problems.

Other early research that is emerging also shows signs that diet drinks are associated with low bone-mineral density in women,  increased risk for depression in consumers, and that aspartame (found in many diet drinks) may lead to headaches in some individuals.

Although these studies may not be able to prove cause and effect for diet soda consumption and health problems, their findings are worth considering. Do the risks really outweigh the possible problems they may be causing? Remember that drinking a diet soda offers no nutritional benefits. It is a drink that may only offer neurologically perceived satisfaction. Remember the saying, “Everything in moderation” when reaching for your next diet soda.

Remember that this information is for educational purposes only. Seek the advice of a health specialist before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

References:

Gunter, Jen, and Md. “Diet Soda + Booze = A Bigger Buzz.” Health (Time Inc.) 27.5 (2013): 16. SPORTDiscus with Full Text.

Clinical Journal Of The American Society Of Nephrology: CJASN [Clin J Am Soc Nephrol] 2011 Jan; Vol. 6 (1), pp. 160-6

Nettleton, Jennifer A., et al. “Diet Soda Intake And Risk Of Incident Metabolic Syndrome And Type 2 Diabetes In The Multi-Ethnic Study Of Atherosclerosis (MESA).” Diabetes Care 32.4 (2009): 688-694. Academic Search Premier.

Yantis, Mary Ann, and Kate Hunter. “Is Diet Soda A Healthy Choice?.” Nursing 40.11 (2010): 67. MEDLINE with Full Text.

Park, Sohyun, et al. “Regular-Soda Intake Independent Of Weight Status Is Associated With Asthma Among US High School Students.” Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition & Dietetics 113.1 (2013): 106-111.

“5 Reasons To Ditch Diet Soda.” Prevention 65.11 (2013): 20.