The ads for soda with “zero calories” are very tempting. The only other beverage that can boast that desirable feature is water, and while it may be good for hydration, it’s far more tempting to the taste buds to grab a can of diet soda. But calories are not the only thing you should be concerned about in the beverages you drink. Many of the ingredients in diet soda have been proven to be harmful to your health and can lead to a host of chronic illnesses. Suddenly that glass of water isn’t looking so bad!
Diet Soft Drinks Increase Vascular Risk
A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine that was conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine found that people who drank diet soft drinks on a regular basis had an increased risk of suffering a vascular event such as a stroke or heart attack. The results were based on data taken from the Northern Manhattan Study, which surveyed 2,564 adults as to their diet and rate of soft drink consumption.
Participants were categorized into one of three groups: no soft drink consumption, light soft drink consumption (1 per month to 6 per week) and regular consumption (one or more per day). The mean follow-up lasted for 10 years, after which they examined the association between soft drink consumption and vascular events.
Even after controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, physical activity, body fat, daily calories consumed and general diet, and including taking any pre-existing vascular conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure into account, it was found that those who drank diet soft drinks every day had a 43% greater risk of suffering a vascular event than those who drank none. Interestingly, those who drank regular soft drinks or who drank diet soda only occasionally had no increased vascular event risk, so the danger appears to lie in the “diet” aspect of the beverage.
Aspartame Is a Neurotoxin
The sweetener that is commonly used today in diet sodas is aspartame (more commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal), which is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and is synthesized from genetically modified microorganisms. Our metabolism breaks aspartame down into aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol, with further breakdown producing formaldehyde and formic acid. There is 180 mg of aspartame in a 12-ounce can of diet soda.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon who wrote the book, “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” noted that aspartame is “a poison that affects protein synthesis; affects how the synapses operate in the brain, and affects DNA, it can affect numerous organs. So you can get many different symptoms that seem unconnected.” Aspartame is an excitotoxin that can accumulate in the brain and excite the neurons there to the point of death in some cases.
Several hundred reports of adverse reactions to aspartame have been submitted to the FDA, 67% of which are neurological or behavioral problems. These include headaches, fuzzy thinking, changes in mood or behavior, depression and seizures. It was approved for the market based on industry-sponsored studies that concluded the substance was not dangerous. However, 97% of non-industry-sponsored studies found at least one possible health hazard.
Increases the Risk of Obesity
Studies have found that people who consume diet soda with no calories actually have a greater risk of obesity than those who drink soda sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Despite the fact that diet soft drinks do not contain sugar, they still stimulate the same release of insulin that would have occurred if the beverage contained sugar because of how the brain perceives it.
A study from the University of Texas Health Center reports that the risk of obesity due to consuming diet soft drinks increases as follows:
- A 26.5% greater risk for people who drink up to half a can of diet soda each day, and 24% for those drinking up to one can of regular soda per day
- A 54.5% greater risk for those who drink one to two cans of diet soda each day, in comparison with 32.8% percent for those who drink the same amount of regular soda
- A 57.1% greater risk for people who drink over two cans of diet soda per day, compared with 47.2% percent of people who drink the equivalent amount of regular soda
All in all, if you feel you must consume soft drinks, it is better to drink the kind sweetened with sugar. But to really be healthy, ditch the soft drinks entirely in favor of juice, green tea or water with a twist of lemon. Your body will thank you!