Millions of people drink diet soda in the belief they’re preventing weight gain, and the soda industry invests millions of dollars to perpetuate this belief. Research, however, paints a different picture — diet sodas are dangerous and can make you fat.
Artificial, low-calorie sweeteners used in diet sodas confuse the body and derange its ability to metabolize sugar and carbohydrates. This “confusion” increases hunger and sugar cravings.
Also, artificial sweeteners create imbalances in gut bacteria, boosting the bacteria that turn calories into body fat, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation.
Diet sodas bring bigger risks than obesity
The health risks associated with diet soda are far more serious than weight gain.
The primary sweetener used in diet sodas, aspartame (which goes by the benign-sounding names Equal and NutraSweet), has been linked to numerous cardiovascular conditions, including stroke, heart failure, and heart attack.
In fact, a nine-year study of 60,000 women showed women who drank two or more cans of diet soda a day were 50 percent more likely to die of heart disease.
The other FDA-approved artificial sweeteners — saccharin, neotame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium — have also been linked to increased risk for heart disease and other health conditions.
Aspartame is a controversial topic. It has been linked to myriad health conditions, some as serious as brain tumors, birth defects, cancer, and memory loss, and is behind numerous complaints to the FDA. However, industry science holds fast to its safety.
Fruit juice is not a healthy substitute
Unfortunately, fruit juice is not a healthy substitute for soda. Fructose is every bit as fattening and inflammatory as sugar or chemical sweeteners. Excessive consumption of fruit juice also puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.
In contrast, eating whole fruit also has you consuming fiber, enzymes, minerals and other healthful compounds stripped away by juicing. Also, chewing tells your brain that you’ve eaten, which reduces your appetite.
If you are addicted to diet sodas (as many people are), you may have to wean yourself gradually. Begin by substituting sparkling water with lemon or lime juice, or even just plain water, for some of your sweet drinks. Often when you think you want something sweet, you’re really just thirsty, and plain filtered water will do you fine.
With patience, you can develop an automatic preference for whole, healthy, unsweetened foods and drinks, largely because they make you feel better. After a while, the foods you crave most can actually be those that are best for your body.
Ask my office about transitioning to a whole foods diet so you can feel and function your best.