Is diet soda harmful to your health?
Thanks to a reader for submitting this question:
I’d like information on diet pop.Is it harmful to your health?
Wow! This is a loaded question because artificial sweeteners are amongst the most talked about food additives out there. No one really knows what the future holds for these molecules. But if your only choice is pop then you need to ask yourself: “Do I want a soft drink loaded with sugars (high fructose corn syrup) OR should I choose the chemicals in a diet drink?”
Keep in mind that the following is my opinion and for your information only – I’m not your mother and after you read it, you can make your own choices.
That said, let’s discuss regular soft drinks first. One serving – an eight ounce cup – has 26 grams or 6.5 teaspoons of sugar. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: would you ever add seven teaspoons of sugar to a glass of water and drink it? Not only is this liquid candy, but soft drinks are also laden with fructose (worse than other sugars because it goes straight from the gut into the blood stream, causing a spike in blood sugar).
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Caramel Color” – the artificial brown coloring in colas and some other products – is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature. Chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, and thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats. The National Toxicology Program, the division of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences that conducted the animal studies, said that there is “clear evidence” that both 2-MI and 4-MI are animal carcinogens (cause cancer).
Artificial sweeteners (“diet”)
People choose artificial sweeteners over sugar to lose or maintain weight. Sugar provides a large amount of rapidly absorbable carbohydrates, leading to excessive energy intake and weight gain. Weight-conscious people often consider artificial sweeteners as a healthier food option. But are artificial sweeteners really a “diet” choice?
In fact, several large scale prospective cohort studies show just the opposite: a positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain. The San Antonio Heart Study examined 3,682 adults over a seven- to eight-year period in the 1980s. Those who consumed artificially sweetened beverages consistently had a higher body mass index (BMI) at the follow-up than those who didn’t drink them, and the more that was consumed, the greater the weight gain. (Obesity; 2008;16:1894–1900.)
You might be interested to know that our desire to eat shares the same brain circuitry as other pleasurable activities such as sex and drug administration. It also shares the same behavioral paradigm with other forms of addiction, like binging, withdrawal, and craving.
Artificial sweeteners may not have any calories, but they do alter your level of satisfaction and may actually increase your appetite. They also encourage sugar craving and dependence. Repeated exposure to sweetness trains you to prefer a sweet flavor. We are already bombarded by sugar, fat and salt. What we need is to train our bodies to appreciate and crave the natural flavour of foods without all the additives.
Another ingredient to be wary of in diet soda is Phosphoric acid. This chemical is capable of removing rust from iron and steel. It has been shown in some studies to decrease bone density (but was not shown in a later study).
I hope this helps. Don’t get caught in the marketing, catchy music and entertaining slogans. Your body is 70 percent water and that’s what your body needs. When you drink anything else, you drink it out of choice. I’m not asking you to be perfect, just take a moment to really think about what you’re consuming on a more consistent basis.
When you have a choice, choose Mother Earth.