Free of calories, carbohydrates and sugar, diet soda may seem like a healthy and refreshing alternative to sugary drinks. However, this fizzy drink may not be as harmless as it seems, especially if you drink several servings of it a day. In fact, excessive consumption of diet soda can be linked to several side effects and affect short- and long-term health.
Here are 8 possible side effects of diet sodas, along with some simple ways to reduce your intake.
- 1 1. Disruption of gut health
- 2 2. Erosion of tooth enamel
- 3 3. Can cause headaches
- 4 4. May Decrease Bone Density
- 5 5. May Affect Heart Health
- 6 6. May be associated with sugar cravings
- 7 7. May be linked to weight gain
- 8 8. May be linked to type 2 diabetes
- 9 How much should you drink?
- 10 How to reduce your consumption
1. Disruption of gut health
Some research suggests that the artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas may have a negative effect on the gut microbiome, which is the community of beneficial bacteria found in your digestive tract. The gut microbiome plays a key role in many aspects of health, including immune function, nutrient absorption, and heart health. A small study including 7 people found that the artificial sweetener saccharin impairs blood sugar management and causes imbalances in gut bacteria in 57% of participants.
Aspartame is one of the most common non-nutritive sweeteners in diet sodas. Many studies have looked at its safety, but few have looked at its effects on the human microbiome. We know that the body breaks down aspartame before it reaches the large intestine, where the gut microbiome primarily resides, but even simplified during digestion, it eventually reaches and unbalances the gut.
2. Erosion of tooth enamel
Although diet sodas do not contain sugar like regular sodas, they are very acidic and can have serious consequences on your smile if you drink a lot of them on a regular basis.
A test-tube study found that both regular and diet soda significantly affected the surface roughness of tooth enamel, indicating that both may contribute to tooth erosion.
Another study showed that due to their acidity, regular and diet sodas could damage the enamel surface, increasing erosion. However, it should be noted that damage to tooth enamel from acidity is not the same as an increased risk of cavities due to sugar content. A study showed that diet sodas did not promote the formation of dental cavities in children. Additionally, a study in teenagers found that regular consumption of soft drinks was associated with poorer oral health and unhealthy eating habits. However, this may be because soft drink consumption, in general, is correlated with poor oral health and other unhealthy eating habits.
3. Can cause headaches
For some people, drinking several servings of diet soda a day can cause headaches. This may be due to certain artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas, such as aspartame. According to some research, aspartame is linked to several side effects when consumed in large amounts. Side effects may include:
Some studies have also found that caffeine, found in some diet sodas, can cause headaches in some people, but the research is mixed. A study in 115 children found that eliminating certain trigger foods from eating, such as aspartame and caffeine, improved headaches in about 87% of participants.
4. May Decrease Bone Density
Diet sodas contain several compounds that can negatively affect bone health and lead to bone loss. These compounds include caffeine and phosphoric acid. Interestingly, one study showed that, in women, regular and diet cola consumption was linked to decreased bone mineral density, a condition that may increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. . Another study in over 17,000 adults found that people who regularly consumed soft drinks had a higher risk of bone fractures over 5 years. Keep in mind that this study did not examine the link between diet soda and bone fractures.
It is important to note that diet sodas do not necessarily have a higher risk of bone fractures or reduced bone mineral density than regular sodas. Both can increase your risk if you consume them in large amounts.
5. May Affect Heart Health
Several observational studies have found that people who regularly drink diet sodas have a higher risk of developing long-term heart problems. A study in 59,614 women showed that drinking at least 2 diet drinks a day was associated with a higher risk of heart problems and death from heart disease over a 9-year period.
Other, older studies have found that diet soda and regular soda consumption may be linked to an increased risk of stroke. Additionally, diet sodas have been linked to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Keep in mind that these studies show a link between diet soda consumption and certain heart problems, but more research is needed to determine if and how other factors may also play a role.
6. May be associated with sugar cravings
Some research suggests that the artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas may have the same effect on the food reward pathway in the brain as regular sugar, which could lead to increased hunger and food intake.
Additionally, since artificial sweeteners are significantly sweeter than regular sugar, researchers have suggested that they may increase sugar cravings and dependence, making it much more difficult to cut back. It is still not known if, and how, these phenomena contribute to weight gain.
Scientists have had mixed results on the link between diet soda consumption and weight gain. Here’s what we know. A study of 749 older adults found that those who regularly consumed diet sodas tended to have greater increases in belly fat over a 9-year period, compared to people who did not regularly consume diet sodas . Another study including 2,126 people showed that drinking at least one soft drink a day was associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome. In addition, diet soda consumption was associated with increased belly fat
Even though diet sodas contain no calories or carbohydrates, some research has shown that they are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, a study in over 2,000 men showed that regular consumption of diet soda was linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a 7-year period. Similarly, a study in 61,400 women showed that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners was linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the long term.
It is essential to note that the research behind this potential link only shows an association, so further research is needed.
How much should you drink?
Switching from regular soda to diet soda is an easy way to reduce your carb and calorie intake. However, diet sodas don’t contain many nutrients, and excessive consumption is associated with some short- and long-term side effects. This is why, if you want to drink a diet soda, it is best to consume it in moderation.
Remember to combine it with a nutritious and balanced diet. You can also enjoy many healthier beverages to help you stay hydrated, such as flavored water or unsweetened tea.
How to reduce your consumption
There are many simple steps you can take to reduce your intake of diet sodas. Start by gradually replacing them with other beverages in your diet. Here are some alternative drinks to consider:
– flavored water
– coconut water
Look for versions of these drinks that are unsweetened or have a lower sugar content. Try adding a splash of fruit juice to water or seltzer water.
If you particularly crave a diet soda when you’re hungry or thirsty, try to stay hydrated and eat nutritious snacks, like fruits and vegetables, throughout the day. It might help keep your cravings at bay.