Diet soda is okay though…Right?

In truth diet soda is the opposite of okay and may be more detrimental to your body than regular soda. This raises the most common question…how can diet soda be detrimental if it is “zero calorie” and/or “fat free?” These phrases are an example of a food/beverage industry that has very misleading national labels to the average consumer. Society has engrained in us that the more “zeros” on a nutritional label, the better. This could not be farther from the truth and the more you learn about real whole foods, the more you will understand. But let’s stay focused on the current topic.

First and foremost, diet soda leads to a state of mind that makes people believe that they are saving a little on the soda, so they can splurge more on other sweet indulgences. Wrong. Sweeteners are sweeteners whether in the form of sugar, aspartame, agave nectar, fructose, Splenda and the list goes on. There is no doubt that regardless of form or claim, these sweeteners are going to provoke a reaction from your body when consumed. There is evidence that suggests consuming artificial sweeteners only perpetuates the need to intake sugar. (1,2) Regardless of calories or effect on glucose levels, your taste buds are telling the brain you are consuming something sweet. The desire for sweet is not being eliminated but rather reinforced. There is a correlation that exists between a person’s regular intake of a flavor and the desired intensity or frequency to have that flavor (2). What America needs to do is eliminate the desire for “sweet” on a regular basis. It was never meant to be a daily staple in our diets!

So we can all agree that this is the extreme case, but what are artificial sweeteners doing to us that can have a short-term impact on our health? There is no question that diet sodas are causing an increase in the obesity rate. There have been numerous studies that have discredited strictly substituting artificial sweeteners for normal sweeteners such as cane sugar had no effect on weight loss (2). If anything these calories are negligible (empty-calories) and will never satisfy a nutritional need thus typically leading to the consumption of additional empty calories. I’ll toast some Doritos to that Diet Coke! This raises a question. Is the introduction of artificial sweeteners having a major influence on the current obesity epidemic in the United States? Let’s take a look at the graph below.

Artificial Sweetner Graph

We can definitely see some correlation here. Artificial sweeteners became very popular in our diets towards the late 90’s and hasn’t looked back ever since. Neither has our BMI (body-mass index aka how much fat is on our bodies). A question I always like to ask is what is my food doing for me? I strive to answer this every time I eat or drink. This is not to insinuate we need to be fleshy robots that purely eat to fuel. There is always room for exceptions, but a good habit to form is questioning what the food or drink you are consuming is doing for you. Green tea for sure. Diet Soda, not a thing…

The cause for concern over artificial sweeteners is only growing and I haven’t even gotten into the detrimental effects that they can on our overall health. Hold tight though for more to come!

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About rontorrancedo

Sports Medicine Fellow. Co-owner Crossfit Love. Director Love Nutrition. Medical Director CEC. Physician at Ondemand Urgent Care.

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