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Diet soda: Friend or foe?

Find out if that sweet, fizzy beverage is helping or hurting

dietWhen you’re looking for a quick caffeine fix or a tasty beverage to quench your thirst, you might think that picking up a diet soda is the right choice. But despite its healthier-sounding name, diet sodas might not be as healthy as you think.

About one-fifth of the US population consumes diet drinks on a daily basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While the diet drinks usually contain minimal or no calories, they also contain artificial sweeteners that are several hundred times sweeter than real sugar.

How could the sweetness level be potentially dangerous?

Artificial sweeteners are man-made in a laboratory and the body can have a hard time processing them if consumed in large amounts. An example of this is Aspartame, found in Splenda. Replacing the hydroxide molecules of regular table sugar with molecules of Chlorine creates this particular artificial sweetener. Chlorine is a very large molecule compared to hydroxide (oxygen and hydrogen), thus making it harder for the body (particularly the liver) to process. Overconsumption of any artificial sweeteners can lead to accumulation in the blood stream, vital organs or even eventual mutations of cells.

These chemically-engineered products can have adverse effects and put strain on the system as a whole, especially with overconsumption.

Can diet sodas be addictive?

“Explore."

Artificial sweeteners present in diet sodas can produce similar effects on the brain as regular, refined sugar. They can cause cravings for that “sweet taste,” that might result in addictive behaviors.
Should people eliminate or reduce the amount of diet soda they consume?
There is conflicting data when it comes to the consumption of diet soda. Some suggest that it can increase the consumer’s chance of being obese because the artificial sweeteners create cravings for which if acted upon, can increase overall calorie intake.

But others say that there’s not enough evidence to directly link diet soda with obesity.

The overall consensus is to use diet soda in moderation (like everything else) and pay attention to the amount of food you consume.

Can diet soda be bad for your teeth?

Another reason to drink less diet soda is to keep those pearly whites shining brightly.

Diet and sugar-free drinks often have a high erosive quality due to the amount of acid present. This erosion could cause weakening of the tooth’s enamel, which could lead to sensitivity, discoloration, small cracks or even small dents on the chewing surface of the teeth.

What about people with diabetes? Is it okay for them to drink diet soda?

According to the American Diabetes Association, “At least daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36 percent greater relative risk of incident metabolic syndrome and a 67 percent greater risk of incident Type 2 diabetes compared with non-consumption.”

But although the study showed that the risk of disease was greater for those who drank diet soda as opposed to those who didn’t drink it all, those who drank diet soda instead of regular soda seemed to be better off than those who drank non-diet soda on a regular basis.

What sort of beverages should the average person be drinking on a daily basis?

From a nutrition standpoint, beverages like unsweetened tea, 100 percent juice, milk and water are healthier choices for diabetics and non-diabetics compared to diet or regular soda.

But because diet soda does not contain carbohydrates or calories, it might be a good option for overweight populations and diabetics as long as they are keeping track of their caloric intake and monitoring their cravings.

** Information for this article is courtesy of the office of Scott & White diabetes educator Raynelle Shelley, RD, LD, CDE.

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Diet soda: Friend or foe?