10 Reasons to Give Up Diet Soda

Soda When taken at face value, diet soda seems like a health-conscious choice. It saves you the 140-plus calories you’d find in a sugary soft drink while still satisfying your urge for something sweet with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. But there’s more to this chemical cocktail than meets the eye.

Artificial sweeteners have more intense flavor than real sugar, so over time products like diet soda dull our senses to naturally sweet foods like fruit, says Brooke Alpert, RD, author of The Sugar Detox. Even more troubling, these sugar stand-ins have been shown to have the same effect on your body as sugar. “Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain,” Alpert says.

Diet soda is calorie-free, but it won’t necessarily help you.

Drinking one diet soda a day was associated with a 36% increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in a University of Minnesota study. Metabolic syndrome describes a cluster of conditions (including high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, raised cholesterol, and large waist circumference) that put people at high risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, Bjork explains.

When you drink diet soda, you’re not taking in any calories—but you’re also not swallowing anything that does your body any good, either. The best no-calorie beverage? Plain old water, says Bjork. “Water is essential for many of our bodily processes, so replacing it with diet soda is a negative thing,” she says. If it’s the fizziness you crave, try sparkling water.

Early studies on aspartame and anecdotal evidence suggests that this artificial sweetener may trigger headaches in some people. “I have several clients who used to suffer from migraines and pinpointed their cause to diet soda,” Bjork says.

Excessive soda drinking could leave you looking like a Breaking Bad extra, according to a case study published in the journal General Dentistry. The research compared the mouths of a cocaine-user, a methamphetamine-user, and a habitual diet-soda drinker, and found the same level of tooth erosion in each of them. The culprit here is citric acid, which weakens and destroys tooth enamel over time.

Using diet soda as a low-calorie cocktail mixer has the dangerous effect of getting you drunk faster than sugar-sweetened beverages, according to research from Northern Kentucky University. The study revealed that participants who consumed cocktails mixed with diet drinks had a higher breath alcohol concentration than those who drank alcohol blended with sugared beverages. The researchers believe this is because our bloodstream is able to absorb artificial sweetener more quickly than sug.

Here’s 3 more



  • Ms. Squillace,

    I am sending this correspondence to state my extreme disappointment in the supposed factual information presented in this article. In my opinion it is simply irresponsible and misleading when a health writer posts mostly speculative nonsense that is not backed by scientific evidence.

    Regarding your 10 reasons…

    1. It confuses your body (“Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain”):

    Sucralose (aka Splenda) DOES NOT affect insulin! An in vivo study of sucralose infusions into the gut showed that it does not stimulate the release insulin. The study conclusion was: “We conclude that sucralose, delivered by intragastric infusion, does not stimulate insulin, GLP-1, or GIP release or slow gastric emptying in healthy humans.”

    Another in vivo study, this time using healthy human subjects, got similar results: oral dosing of sucralose did not induce a cephalic insulin response, nor did it affect GLP-1. Not even appetite was affected.

    Recently, a review of in vivo studies concluded that “low-energy sweeteners” do not have any of the effects on insulin, appetite, or blood glucose predicted by “in vitro, in situ, or knockout studies in animals.” So far as I can tell according to all available literature there isn’t an appreciable insulin effect from artificial sweeteners, period.

    And even the Mayo Clinic says “One of the most appealing aspects of artificial sweeteners is that they are non-nutritive — they have virtually no calories. In contrast, each gram of regular table sugar contains 4 calories. A teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams. For perspective, consider that one 12-ounce can of a sweetened cola contains 8 teaspoons of added sugar, or about 130 calories. If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners rather than with higher calorie table sugar may be an attractive option”

    2. It could lead to weight gain, not weight loss:

    Yes, a single study by a doctor showed that some people who use artificial sweeteners gain weight, but the study failed to show a definitive link to the artificial sweetener itself… the result is much more likely related to environmental or psychological aspects. Other unbiased studies show no such link between weight gain and artificial sweeteners, and many doctors have slammed this other doctor’s so-call study:

    “The views in this opinion piece I found to be biased and speculative,”… “She’s presented only the research that supports her opinion and ignored the large body of scientific research that demonstrates the safety and benefits of low-calorie sweeteners. I think it’s important to remember that low-calorie sweeteners are only one aspect of a multifaceted approach to health or obesity prevention.”

    3. It’s associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes:

    Same as above… there is simply no evidence to support this. Again, the Mayo Clinic says: “Diabetes. Artificial sweeteners may be a good alternative to sugar if you have diabetes. Unlike sugar, rtificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates.”

    4. It has no nutritional value:

    Uhhh… isn’t that the whole point? And why would that be a reason to stop using artificial sweeteners as proposed by your article?

    5. Its sweetener is linked to headaches:

    Yes, some studies have shown that a small percentage of people that are already predisposed to migraines only are susceptible to increased incidents, but only when using Aspartame.

    Your statement implies all artificial sweeteners have this effect and is inappropriate and irresponsible to give this impression to your readers.

    6. It’ll ruin your smile over time:

    More BS… even your own statement indicates that this is related to other ingredients in soda, not the artificial sweetener itself. Again, inappropriate and irresponsible.

    7. It makes drinking more dangerous (Using diet soda as a low-calorie cocktail mixer has the dangerous effect of getting you drunk faster than sugar-sweetened beverages):

    Possibly, but essentially irrelevant and an excessively narrow study. A single study by the “Psychological Science” Department at Northern Kentucky University did show a mild (1.5% overall increase) in blood alcohol content when using mixers utilizing a single brand of soda (Squirt) which uses Aspartame. But there were no conclusions as to why this effect was noticed… it could have been for reasons unrelated to the sweetener. Again, you are being irresponsible by stating to your readers that this is a “dangerous” issue associated to artificial sweeteners in general.

    8. It’s associated with depression:

    Again, bad misinformation and irresponsible. Per your own statement the study did showed a correlation between consumption of both diet AND sugar based sodas, so this is totally irrelevant to the premise of your article.

    9. It may be bad for your bones:

    Again, same as above… bad misinformation. Per your own statement the study did show a correlation between consumption of both diet AND sugar based sodas on elderly consumers of sodas, so this is totally irrelevant to the premise of the article and again you are being irresponsible by implying to your readers that this is related to artificial sweeteners.

    10. It may hurt your heart:

    Again, more bad misinformation, inappropriate and irresponsible. I guess because you repeatedly use the words “could” and “may” in your premises it gives you the right to misinterpret the studies and mislead the readers of the article?

    Yes, there was a study that showed an indirect association between heart disease and older adults who regularly drank diet soda. But the study itself did NOT show a direct correlation between artificial sweeteners and heart disease. In fact, the study conclusion clearly stated nearly the opposite, stating “What we saw was only an association. These people tend to have more unhealthy habits, noting that daily diet-soda drinkers did tend to be heavier and more often have heart risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and unhealthy cholesterol levels.”

    While you did admit that more research is needed, it is nothing short of unethical to give your readers the impression that the study found that heart disease could actually be caused by artificial sweeteners, especially given the stated conclusion that there was only an association and not a definitive correlation.

    Ms. Squillace, I am not aware if you are a frequent contributor or not, but I sincerely hope that if you do write future articles that you make a genuine effort to use more factual statements rather than sensationalism to inspire your readers. As I hope you can see, not a single one of your “10 reasons” is fully factual and/or relevant. When you make inaccurate or misleading statements such as the ones in this article, you are doing a disservice to the health profession as a whole, not to mention your readers.