Ditching that regular soda and switching to a diet version may not be the perfect fix-it healthy solution. Research shows that both versions may lead to disease. Before consulting with clients and making recommendations, I like to review ongoing food and nutrition research— especially regarding liquid calories.
Clients ask me, “What could be so bad about a no-calorie diet soda?” Well, studies show that artificial sweeteners alter your metabolism and increase your sweet tooth. They make you want more sugar, which means consuming more calories in the long run. The food industry has rapidly increased the production of foods with artificial sweeteners and Americans are heavier than ever! According to the Mayo Clinic, sugar substitutes are not “magic bullets for weight loss.” They are synthetic and intensely sweet, much more than regular sugar itself. At the end of the day, keep it simple. One teaspoon of sugar is only 10 calories and is not going to harm you or make you fat.
Other research has recently linked diet soft drinks to disease. A nine-year study followed older adults who drank diet soda daily. The results showed a 48 percent higher risk of stroke, heart attack and death, even after adjusting for other risk factors. Arguably, this study hasn’t been published in a peer-review journal and may have other confounding factors. However, as a nutritionist who has observed patterns of America’s intake of artificial sweeteners, I’ve seen their long-term effects firsthand. Research on these sugar substitutes connects diet soda consumption to metabolic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, and Type 2 Diabetes.
When clients hear this they ask, “Isn’t it better to have a regular carbonated soda instead?” Well, no, definitely not. According to Tufts’ Irwin H. Rosenberg, M.D., “The real concern remains sugared soft drinks, which have gotten a free ride for years in their health impact.” An abundance of studies have connected regular soft drinks to various health issues, beyond the increase in obesity. Too much pop may be bad for your bone health. A few studies have connected drinking cola to lower bone-mineral density in older women.
What’s more, new research shows a connection between sugary soft drinks and high blood pressure. Another study done by Louisiana State University in 2010 found that those who drank one fewer sugary beverage per day lowered their blood pressure over an 18 month period. On top of these concerns, sugary soft drinks have been linked with pancreatic cancer.