There may be “zero calories,” but there are several concerns with diet soda
Many people believe that consuming fewer calories means you lose weight. As such, substances like diet soda which contain “zero calories” are very appealing. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose give the drink its sweet taste without adding unwanted calories. However, these sweeteners also pose potential health risks which may outweigh the benefits of a zero-calorie drink.
In fact, it turns out these diet drinks may not actually help you “diet” at all. Though diet soda is “calorie-free,” evidence suggests drinking diet pop on a regular basis increases one’s risk of elevated blood sugar and weight gain. Though that particular beverage contains “zero calories,” the sweet taste of the drink – which is normally associated with lots of calories – causes you to eat more later. By overeating, the body makes up for the calories it was expecting from the soda but did not receive. Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to change the composition of bacteria in our gut and thereby affect how certain things are metabolised in the body. This can lead to problems like obesity and diabetes.
More specifically, artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose or aspartame have been shown to cause glucose intolerance. This is where the body is unable to properly process sugar, and it is often a precursor to type II diabetes. In fact, individuals who consume diet pop on a daily basis are 67 per cent more likely to acquire type II diabetes than those who generally avoid it. This is just one of the many health risks posed by regular consumption of artificial sweeteners. Daily drinking of diet soda is even linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Artificial sweeteners can also be found in food, breath fresheners and chewing gum. Some are even sold on their own as tabletop sweeteners. Brands such as Sugar Twin and Sweet’n Low are primarily composed of cyclamate, which is now banned in the U.S. due to evidence that it causes bladder cancer in animals and is dangerous during pregnancy. Saccharin has also been shown to cause bladder cancer in rats, however Canada controversially lifted the ban on the substance in 2014 as this risk was determined to not be relevant to humans. Sucralose, the main ingredient in Splenda, is currently under revision as a study may have linked it to causing leukemia in mice. Finally, aspartame, the primary component of the brand Equal, has been shown by multiple studies to cause cancer in rodents. It may also cause dizziness, irritability and headaches in some people.
It is important to note that just because many studies show diet sodas to be harmful does not mean that regular soda should be consumed their place. It is instead important to be aware of our intake of artificial sweeteners as well as sugar in order to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. As such, perhaps in the future if we want a zero-calorie drink, we should stick to water.