As a twenty-something-year old living in a busy world, I love the rush of energy that comes from drinking a caffeinated beverage. Whether it is the cup of joe I have in the morning or the Diet Coke I have become accustomed to drinking around noon, these sweet stimulants help me feel awake and on my “A- game” throughout the day. When taken at face value, diet soda appears like a healthier option as it saves you the 140-plus calories you’d find in a sugary soda or Red Bull energy drink. However, despite being lower in calories, studies are now finding that there is more to this sugar-free substitute that meets the eye. Could it actually be causing more harm than you think? After doing some research on the topic, here is some basic information I’ve found:
1. It confuses your body. Artificial sweeteners used in diet soda (e.g. aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) have been shown to disrupt the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake based on the sweetness of foods. According to a study conducted at Purdue University, people who consume diet foods may be more likely to overeat because their body is being tricked into thinking it’s eating sugar. In turn, this could cause a person to crave more sugar and overeat.
2. It could lead to weight gain, not weight loss. Although diet soda is calorie-free, researchers have found that it won’t necessarily help you lose or keep off weight. Why you ask? It’s been found that when people drink diet soda, they may engage in what is known as “cognitive distortion” or the “Diet Coke and fries” order. When an individual knows they aren’t consuming any liquid calories, they find it is easier to justify that Big Mac and fries.
3. It has no nutritional value. Although you’re avoiding calories when you drink diet soda, you’re also not consuming anything that does your body any good. The best no calorie beverage? Water! Water is essential for many of our bodily processes. If you crave fizziness, try sparkling water as an alternative. If you crave something sweet, try throwing lemon, lime or other fruit slices into your water for some extra flavor.
4. It will ruin your smile over time. With a pH level of 3.2, diet soda is very acidic. Excessive soda drinking could ruin your pearly whites over time due to tooth erosion. The culprit is citric acid, which can weaken and destroy tooth enamel over time.
5. It may be bad for your bones. Tufts University researchers have found that drinking soda, including diet soda, can increase a person’s risk for osteoporosis over time. They’ve discovered that female cola drinkers had nearly 4% lower bone mineral density in their hips than those who didn’t. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that cola intake of all kinds was associated with low bone-mineral density in women.
Although the research thus far is preliminary, it made me think twice about what I’m putting into my body. Although a sip of diet soda satisfies my sweet tooth and gives me short-lived energy, healthy energy boosting alternatives, such as exercise and staying hydrated, work just as well if not better.