Diet Soda and Your Health

Diet soda is a common beverage for those seeking the caffeine or sweetness of a soda, but are watching their waistline. Over the last decade, some negative press has surrounded the beverage and its healthfulness. Is a diet soda really a smart choice for your health? How about your oral health?

There really isn’t a conclusive answer, and there are many components to consider. A lot of the problem with drinking soda in general is the quantity people consume. Studies over time have shown that people generally just don’t have a soda every now and then as a treat–which is why soda is often the first sugary food or beverage targeted by the media. Soda most often becomes a habit, and people with this habit drink several cans a day. This alone can be detrimental to your health. Soda provides no essential nutrients or health benefits, and therefore any soda you drink is taking the place of the water or milk that you should be drinking.

Interestingly enough, diet beverage consumers drink even more cans per day on average than those who choose the full-calorie version. Recent studies have taken a look at this information closer, because researchers think that there might be something about diet soda that makes it addicting. It could be that the soda becomes a ritual–something for a pick-me-up in the afternoon or takes the place of morning coffee–and there is no calories to hold you back from having it. It also could be an effect of the artificial sweetener, which has been linked to triggers in the brain’s reward system. Artificial sweetener may trigger our brains as a positive reinforcement, which causes us to keep wanting it throughout the day.

Artificial sweeteners themselves do not have the reputation for being the healthiest choice either. It is always better to consume whole, unprocessed foods, and foods and beverages containing artificial sweeteners certainly are very processed and contain many unnatural ingredients. In addition, snack foods that are sugar free or contain artificial sweeteners may contain other additives that boost the calorie or carbohydrate content to make them taste better. As a rule, munch on natural foods, and use portion control rather than seeking out processed foods and drinks.

Also in the headlines recently have been studies claiming to conclude that diet soda actually causes you to gain weight. There is still no straight answer, but there are some factors to consider. If you are a regular soda drinker who switches to diet, the change will most likely result in weight loss. However, brain studies have shown that regular consumption of diet soda can actually effect the way your body reacts to sugar. Your body will naturally react to sugar, and trigger you to slow down when consuming it after you receive the energy you need from it. However, since the artificial sweeteners do not provide the energy that sugar does, over time, the body may get confused when consuming actual sugar, and you may end up consuming more than you think you did.It is important to take into consideration that the link between weight gain and diet soda could also go the other direction–that the weight gain triggered the choice to switch to diet!

In addition, regular consumption of diet soda has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, kidney issues, and preterm labor in women. These health complications have not been attributed to regular soda consumption. At this point there is no biological explanation as to why diet soda may contribute to these health issues.

As far as your oral health, diet drinks don’t do as much damage as their regular, sugary counterparts. However, most diet beverages do offer high acidity which is harmful to the enamel of your teeth, and if the soda is darker colored, it does contain a caramel coloring which is also not good for your teeth and their enamel.

The bottom line is this: if you enjoy a diet soda every now and then, it is probably not going to have a negative impact on your health in the long run, but anytime you are consuming something daily–even if it is calorie-free– it’s worth looking into its health implications. The risks involved in consuming regular artificial sweetener, as well as the recent links to some larger health complications, may not be worth the daily caffeine or sugar fix–diet or not.


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About the author

A practicing dentist since 1982, Dr. Gary Imm, provides advanced cosmetic dentistry, including smile makeovers, sedation, implant and TMJ services. He is committed to progressive, extraordinary care for his guests. All Smiles Dental Care trains at least 300 hours each year at such prestigious centers as the Las Vegas Institute of Advanced Dentistry. (LVI)