If we’ll tell you soft drinks aren’t the healthiest choice of beverage, I doubt you’d be shocked by the “revelation”. Moreover, if we’ll tell you that the alternatives of said soft drinks that are branded as “diet” also aren’t the first choice of health and fitness gurus, we imagine that, too, won’t knock you off your feet.
People don’t drink diet sodas because they think they’re healthy. But they do drink them because they like sodas and imagine that the diet versions are healthier compared to the main brand alternative. Except that may not be the case at all.
Diet sodas, alternatively marketed as no-sugar or low-calorie drinks, are soft drinks that employ artificial sweeteners to give the drinks their signature sweetness. Artificial sweeteners have long been the subject of debate, research, and speculation as to their effectivity and potential dangers.
Some artificial sweeteners were even banned for a time in the US due to fears that they were carcinogenic (linked to the development of cancer cells), however, the tests that demonstrated their link to cancer have all been conducted on rodents and were not reproducible on humans, causing the FDA to pull the ban.
But the controversy refused to die down, and more recent studies have given us plenty of reasons to be concerned about diet soda consumption.
1. Regularly drinking diet sodas could cause stroke and heart disease
According to a recently published study in the peer-reviewed Stroke, a medical journal associated with the American Heart Association, regularly drinking artificially-sweetened soft drinks could be linked to higher chances of stroke and heart complications.
Of the test participants, those who drank two diet beverages daily (as opposed to on a weekly basis or not at all) were shown to be 23% more likely to experience a stroke overall, 29% more likely to develop heart complications and 31% to have an ischemic (clot-related) stroke
2. Diet, no-sugar drinks actually induce obesity and diabetes
A recent study from 2017, published in the Current Gastroenterology Reports medical journal, cast a large shadow over the claim that artificial sweeteners assist in weight-loss, actually demonstrating that the opposite was true and that they were linked with obesity. A second study that was presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting corroborated these findings and even showed that, ironically enough, artificial sweeteners might cause or exacerbate diabetes.
3. Artificially-sweetened drinks might trigger depression
A 2014 study that was published in PLOS One journal showed there is a correlation between the consumption of diet sodas and higher rates of depression. The study does not delve into the mechanism that might explain why this is so, nor prove that the correlation, in this case, means causation, but it did show that more drinkers of artificially-sweetened beverages suffer from depression than those who drink the sugary alternatives or neither.
4. Diet sodas are addictive
The combination of caffeine and the artificial sweetener aspartame in diet sodas may very well cause physical addiction, with numerous cases of people who appear to compulsively drink them.
According to a study published in 2008 in NeuroImage, artificial sweeteners trigger the same feeling of pleasantness in our brain as sugar does, however in an incomplete manner. According to Dr. Martin P. Paulus, one of the study’s authors, the result is that the brain wants more of the stuff, in order to attain the sugary high it so craves.
5. They’re associated with higher blood pressure
In 2016, the Journal of Hypertension published a test conducted with a population of 512 fifth-graders, of which some drank soft drinks, others frequently drank diet beverages and others had neither. Predictably, drinkers of soft drinks had a higher blood pressure than those who abstained from them. Unpredictably, drinkers of diet sodas had blood pressure that was higher than both groups.
6. It is associated with a twofold decline in kidney function
A test conducted with drinkers of both sugar and artificially-sweetened drinks attempted to find a correlation to decline in glomerular filtration rate (a measure of kidney function). The 2011 study, which was published in CJASN, showed a clear correlation between regularly drinking diet sodas and reduced kidney function, where drinking two or more such beverages a day was linked with a twofold increased odds of kidney function decline. No such correlation was found linking sugar-sweetened soft drinks to kidney decline.
7. It wreaks havoc on your teeth
An article in General Dentistry that was published in 2013 shows that the acidic damage to a habitual diet soda drinker’s teeth chips away at the enamel protecting the teeth, making them susceptible to all sorts of hazards. The dental erosion associated with the drink’s high acidity is astounding.
Sadly, young people aren’t overly deterred by the notion of long-term damage to their body, until the threat becomes reality. Dental hygiene, in particular, is easy to ignore until you find yourself depending on dentures to eat and speak.
8. It can be linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s
In a 2017 study published in Stroke magazine, participants over 60 were tested according to their dietary preferences and drinking habits over a period of ten years. What the researchers found was truly alarming: regular imbibers of diet sodas were about three times more likely to suffer from all-cause dementia as well as Alzheimer’s disease. No such link could be found to sugary sodas.
In summary, while most of the studies here demonstrate correlation and do not establish causation with the various health hazards presented, the sheer volume of evidence should make you put your soda down. The simple truth is that the only healthy alternative to sodas is no sodas at all.
Image source: clementine mom