Is diet soda better than regular soda? Can diet soda make you lose weight?
Cutting calories and sugar intake will lead to weight loss, but research suggests that diet soda could actually be causing more weight gain and metabolic disease.
Regular soda is high in sugar, which is known to cause weight gain and related diseases, but diet soda isn’t. So how is diet soda sweet without sugar and how could it cause weight gain if it’s zero calories?
Diet soda has Zero Calories, Zero Sugar, Zero Fat, and you know what else, ZERO health benefits. If it sounds too good to be true it’s because it probably is, and that’s definitely the case for diet soda. No calories, no sugars, no fats, but all the crisp bubbly taste… from chemicals. Chemicals that your body doesn’t know how to break down and digest so it destroys your gut and other organs in the process contributing to disease and premature death.
Beverage companies market diet soda to be favorable for the public claiming that zero-calorie sodas are better for you despite the fact that on average, diet soda drinkers consume more calories from food due to increased hunger signals from the brain and alterations in their gut microbiome. The problem is that advertisements and marketing schemes from the beverage industry are hard to compete with and they have a lot of influence over what studies are published. Therefore, we face conflicting data about the health concerns of soda. However, your view on soda should be based on what’s going into your body versus what the commercials on TV claim. So to clear up the confusion, let’s look at the nutritional content of diet and regular soda.
Nutritional Content of Soda
Let’s take the latest release of Pepsi Nitro Vanilla. 63 GRAMS of sugar from high fructose corn syrup and the regular Nitro isn’t any better at 62g of added sugars. Considering the daily recommended amount of sugar intake, you’ve already doubled your daily limit for sugar in just one can of soda! The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36g for men and 25g for women of sugar a day.
No doubt that regular soda is bad for your health, but what about Diet Soda? Released in the 1950’s, diet beverages were initially marketed for diabetics and later to dieters as an essential part of any weight loss plan. Initially, it worked. Cutting out excess calories and sugar will lead to weight loss, but over time we’re now seeing the negative health effects of diet soda consumption.
Diet soda uses artificial sweeteners to achieve a sweet taste without using real sugar. Aspartame is the most commonly used artificial sweetener and has since been linked to:
- Cardiovascular Disease, including Heart Attacks and Stroke
- Certain Cancers
- Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias
- Metabolic Syndrome, Impaired Glucose Intolerance, increased risk for Type 2 Diabetes
- Mood Disorders, including anxiety and depression
- Headaches and Migraines
- Intestinal Dysbiosis (impaired gut microbiome), can lead to chronic inflammation and GI discomfort
- Kidney and Liver Disease
- If consumed during pregnancy, increased risk of preterm labor and an increased risk of future obesity for the child
- Premature aging
Some studies have even shown a probable link between maternal consumption of aspartame and premature birth, allergies, faster weight gain in newborns, and potentially autism. Obesity and metabolic diseases are common with sugar substitutes likely due to the fact that they can influence glucose and insulin intolerance as well as alter gut flora. Aspartame also contributes to mental health disorders as it can compromise the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, altering neural pathways and reducing serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
Regardless of whether soda has artificial or real sugar, it offers no nutritional benefit and alters the function of vital organs, which over time, directly contributes to disease. I’m not saying that we can never drink it again, I’m saying we probably shouldn’t. It’s the consistent exposure to soda that will likely alter the course of your health, which leads to the exploration of how soda is digested in the body.
How Soda is Digested
Digestion starts with our eyes and tastebuds. Your body starts responding to incoming food well before it hits the stomach. Seeing and tasting something sweet, like regular or diet soda, signals a cascade of events for the digestion of carbohydrates. Your tastebuds recognize something sweet and signal the brain to activate digestive enzymes and hormones like insulin. The brain’s reward pathway is activated, which reinforces cravings for soda and becomes even stronger if soda is caffeinated. Regular soda raises blood glucose and insulin responds to normalize glucose levels. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so once activated in the blood, insulin directs incoming contents to be stored in fat cells. Diet soda is still sweet from your tastebud’s sensors, therefore a similar response occurs. In fact, aspartame is 200 x sweeter than table sugar.
The second issue in soda digestion is that drinking your calories doesn’t register with your stomach or brain, hence the term “empty calories.” Instead, your brain perceives the sweet taste and craves sugar more because it’s not satisfied with the chemical sweetness of diet sodas. You’re more likely to consume excess calories from food if you drink diet or regular soda as it stimulates hunger hormones more.
Now that I’ve convinced you to cut back on the cola, or at least I hope so, let’s check out some of my tips for helping you kick soda out of your life.
My Tips to Reduce Soda Intake
- Quitting cold turkey can cause intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms, just like other addictions. Cutting back slower is a better plan.
- Stop bringing soda into your home. If you buy soda and see it in your fridge, you’re going to drink them.
- Opt for unsweetened ice tea or green tea without sugar. You can make a batch at home and flavor it with mint, lemon, and even a dash of honey. Sipping on green tea can actually help boost your metabolism and help you lose weight.
- Choose naturally flavored carbonated drinks made with real fruit. There are lots of options on the market now for seltzer waters that are naturally flavored. Just be sure to look out for ones that use sugar and sugar substitutes.
- For adult beverages, try switching to seltzer water and add a splash of juice with a garnish. Splash of cranberry with lime or splash of lemonade with fresh lemon and mint.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.