Diet Soda: This Fad Needs to Fizzle Out
"Diet soda is good for you, right? It is healthier than regular soda, right? It will help me lose weight, right?" Have you heard these statements before, or have you wondered about them yourself? If yes, read more to fizzle out the truth about diet soda.
Is Diet Soda Good for You?
Diet soda was first created with the hopes of offering refreshments to individuals with diabetes. It was not intended to make them healthier or help them lose weight; it was developed so they could enjoy soda on a restricted diet that limits sugar intake. Do you have a health condition that encourages diet soda consumption over regular soda? It is important to consider why you are drinking diet soda instead of regular soda. Do you just enjoy the refreshing taste once in a while or rely on the caffeine multiple times per day? Diet soda does not contain any nutritional value, meaning it does not provide any vitamins, minerals or nutrients. So there are no real health benefits to drinking it.
Is Diet Soda Healthier Than Regular Soda?
Diet soda contains low to zero calories compared to regular soda and is sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, cyclamates, saccharin and acesulfame-k. These sweeteners are still recognized by the brain as sugar and, in some instances, they have been linked to interfering with hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, peptide YY and insulin. These hormones are responsible for satiety and hunger regulation and artificial sweeteners have been associated with causing their imbalance. This may cause you to overeat even when you are full. In this case, diet soda would not be healthier than regular soda, because it can cause weight gain and is thought to alter brain function. Additionally, even though diet soda is not high in sugar like regular soda, it has been associated with poor dental health in those who overconsume it.
Will Diet Soda Help You Lose Weight?
Diet soda was not created to aid with weight loss; however, some people have experienced weight loss when they have tried to wean themselves off of regular soda. The weight loss can be explained by the fact that there are fewer to no calories in diet soda compared to regular soda. Therefore, replacing a caloric drink with a low or noncaloric drink can result in weight loss. But diet soda on its own does not cause weight loss and it is hard to associate diet soda with weight loss. An intervention study, called the Northern Manhattan Study, looked at weight loss from caloric vs. non-caloric soda with the diets of participants controlled. The result of the study showed that there was no weight loss in either, because weight loss depends on lifestyle and habits. Additionally, it’s been found that those who overconsume diet soda also engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits such as a high intake of added sugars, trans fats, excess sodium and physical inactivity.
You may be feeling overwhelmed by all the information you have just learned. While it is okay to enjoy the food and drinks you love in moderation, it's important to ask yourself why you are drinking diet soda and if a healthier alternative may provide what you're looking for. Here is a list of alternatives to soda:
If you drink soda for the carbonation, try an unflavored, unsweetened seltzer water. Seltzers still offer the bubbly sensation, but do not have artificial sweeteners.
If you drink soda for a caffeine boost, try unsweetened or minimally sweetened tea or coffee for natural energy that supports immune health.
If you don’t like the taste of water, try adding fruit to your water for some fresh flavor.
If you love soda for the sweetness, try eating dried or whole fruits. These are great because they are naturally sweetened and will provide some other nutrients like fiber and vitamins.
Remember that soda in MODERATION is best and is less likely to cause harm if you are not drinking it every day.
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Written by: Hilma Porter, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern