Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Diet Soda, Savior or Saboteur?

At some point or another, we've probably all hear how unhealthy soda can be.  Perhaps you've heard the story that coca-cola can dissolve a tooth in a night, or that it's the same stuff used to pick up chemical spills.  Maybe you've heard that it eats away at your stomach lining, causing ulcers and other very painful, damaging conditions.  Whether these claims are true or not, you'd be right to think that soda definitely is not a health drink.  The sugar content alone should make most people steer clear.

But what about diet soda?  All those nasty sugars have been replaced by artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame and Sucralose.  And the nice little nutrition label reads a satisfying "0 calories."  That must mean it's not like it's big brother, caustic and destructive.....right?  I'm sure my mom is on her knees begging right now for me to just end the article with a big, fat "RIGHT!!!" And shut down my computer.  Diet Pepsi is her life.

Well mom, I hate to say it, but that's not the whole story.  Diet soda has quite a few little quirks about it that would inevitably make it a snack you might want to skip...unfortunately.  The thing is, these little devious side effects aren't easily noticeable, and therefore might sabotage your clean eating diet without you even realizing it.  Here's what to watch out for when it comes to diet soda:

Increased Appetite:  Because you're not putting any real calories in your system, diet soda isn't going to save you from the hunger pains.  It's not a legitimate "snack", and if your hunger continues to be ignored you're more likely to binge on that fat bag of pretzels in that long car ride.  If you're hungry, don't expect much out of a diet pepsi.  Grab an apple, a banana, or maybe an orange (after all it is cold season.)

Linked to Obesity:  Hold on there, I didn't say diet soda CAUSED obesity, but it certainly has some frightening statistics associated with it.  Here's a good display of obesity percentages that I found multiple places on the web.

For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:
  • 26% for up to 1/2 can each day
  • 30.4% for 1/2 to one can each day
  • 32.8% for 1 to 2 cans each day
  • 47.2% for more than 2 cans each day.
For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:
  • 36.5% for up to 1/2 can each day
  • 37.5% for 1/2 to one can each day
  • 54.5% for 1 to 2 cans each day
  • 57.1% for more than 2 cans each day.
For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person's risk of obesity went up 41%.

That's pretty ridiculous, though in my opinion it's not diet soda which is causing obesity.  I believe these people who are obese diet soda addicts have switched to diet soda in an attempt to feel a little better, but instead have replaced the lost calories with an extra large fries at McDonald's (one of the most popular places diet soda is sold.)  Diet soda isn't a miracle cure, and usually the food it is accompanied by is extremely detrimental to any sort of benefits that might be obtained by drinking it.

Metabolic Syndrome:  For a long time, there has been evidence that diet soda is linked to this condition.  "MetSyn" is a combination of many smaller symptoms that end up drastically increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease.  Personally I find it hard to lump diet soda in equally with: low amounts of exercise, a horrible diet, and excessive body fat, but nonetheless the evidence seems to exist that it can be a contributor.  Again, this may be because the majority of people who drink diet soda are obese already, but it's a little nugget of knowledge you should definitely keep in the back of your mind.  

Destructive Chemicals:  Some people will complain about the large amount of aspartame sweetener in diet soda.  I don't jump on the "aspartame =bad" train so easily.  Studies have proven that artificial sweeteners are not NEARLY as dangerous as claimed, and by all means will NOT cause cancer.  I believe that diet soda's more destructive chemical happens to be phosphoric acid.  This chemical is infused with soda to add a "tangy" flavor, and will end up destroying both teeth and esophagus alike.  It's powerful stuff, and I should know.  I don't drink soda, I use it as a rust removal tool when sanding and repainting sheet metal.  The stuff works, and every time I see that shiny steel, once orange with rust, I think "how can people drink this stuff?"  Watch out for that phosphoric acid, it can do more damage than you think.

But wait.  I'm not here to completely destroy diet soda.  No, I believe it does have it's place.  Some people just "need" soda for whatever reason, and I know that I could argue with them all day and they'd never even consider chucking the stuff (and believe me I've tried.)  So here's my little note of encouragement.

Diet soda, if it's going to be enjoyed, should be enjoyed in moderation.  Don't take it for anything else than it is.  It's not a weight loss tool, it's not a justification for sweet snacks, it's not an accompaniment to a dirty, fat filled meal, and above all, it's NOT VERY GOOD FOR YOU.  Diet soda is diet soda, and should be enjoyed merely as that and nothing more.  While this may seem obvious, it's clear to me that to a lot of people it's not obvious at all, especially judging by those obesity statistics.  Sure, if you're going to drink a soda, make it diet.  You could definitely do without all that sugar. But please, whenever possible, have a glass of water, milk, or juice instead of that coke zero.  You'll feel better, believe me.

Drink up, stay clean, and as always, good luck!


  1. but you've neglected to address the idea that many people drink diet soda for the caffeine, perhaps because they don't drink coffee. i personally only drink diet caffeinated colas because i need a little energy in the morning. i believe it could be equated to your post on NO Xplode, and your desire to have energy for lifting weights. i dare you to write a post suggesting that people give up their morning coffee!

  2. there was just an article this morning on vermont public radio about a study in which increased consumption of soda was linked to a rise in teen violence. while the story reported the two to be closely linked, they were astute enough to realize that it does not mean that soda consumption CAUSES violent behavior in teens. this is similar to your comment that increased diet soda consumption and obesity, while linked, are not cause and effect, rather life style trends of certain types of users. well said.