Sugar is on the brain – from legislation and regulation, to films and books – and stirring up more chance for change every day. We’ve covered a good share of topics regarding sugar recently, so we wanted to touch on a sugar-themed food item that seems to evade macro trackers and calorie counters when it comes to weight and optimal health: Diet soda.
A few possible reasons as to why diet soda consumption is still a thing:
“There are no calories”
Because of the popular emphasis on calorie counting and tracking macro nutrients, as opposed to micronutrients, the “0 Calories” label is attractive to those looking to lose weight via a diet – according to the Boston Medical Center, that is approximately 45 million Americans a year.
“At least it’s not soda”
Perhaps this explains a recent Gallup poll that reported nearly two-thirds of Americans say they avoid soda in their diet. You would be correct, diet soda does not contain regular sugar or high fructose corn syrup like regular soda does. For a soda drinker, this argument effectively relegates diet soda to be framed as the “lesser of two evils.”
“It is a habit/addiction”
Animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners, like the ones found in diet sodas, may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin.
7 Reasons That Will Get You to Quit Drinking Diet Soda
- It can cause weight gain, not weight loss: According to Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, one concern is that people who use artificial sweeteners, like those found in diet sodas, may replace the lost calories through other sources, justifying an unhealthy choice such as pizza. A recent Gallup poll reported that 32% of diet soda consumers are overweight, compared to the 19% consuming diet soda that are at an average weight.
- It increases cravings for more sugar and other processed foods. Research suggests that they may prevent us from associating sweetness with caloric intake and, as a result, we may “crave more sweets, tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food,” according to Harvard Medical. This behavior would also contribute to weight gain, from what we know about sugar-laden foods in general.
- It messes with your taste buds: According to Dr. Brooke Alpert, the author of The Sugar Detox, artificial sweeteners like the ones found in diet sodas have more intense flavor than real sugar, so over time, we risk dulling our senses to naturally sweet foods like fruit.
- It’s not nutrient dense: Since diet soda is full of artificial ingredients, filling up on the processed liquid can lead to deficiencies of various vitamins and minerals that play an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning
- Your bones could pay the price: Researchers have discovered that parathyroid hormone (PTH) concentrations rise strongly following diet soda consumption. “The job of this hormone is to increase blood calcium when it starts to get too low by stimulating bone breakdown. As a result, calcium is removed from bone.” In the small study, conducted by Walter Reed Army Medical Center, women aged 18-40 were given 24 ounces of either diet cola or water on two consecutive days, and urinary calcium content was measured for three hours. Women who drank diet cola did indeed excrete more calcium in their urine compared to women who drank water. The study concluded that this calcium loss may underlie the observed connection between soda drinking and low bone mineral density.
- It has been linked to depression: A U.S. National Institutes of Health report revealed that regular soda drinkers, particularly those who drink diet soda, are more likely to be diagnosed with depression.
- It’s not water: We need water to be healthy. Water is instrumental in healthy organ function and naturally improves digestion to help break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients. Water also softens stools, which helps prevent constipation. It is recommended that the average adult drink eight glasses of water a day. If you’re more physically active, you’ll need to compensate for your water-loss by increasing your intake – you can calculate your sweat rate here.
Alternatives to Diet Soda
- Water: Our Watermind Me app is a simple and free iOS app we created to keep you hydrated – it uses reminders and helps track your daily intake, so that you don’t forget to drink. Need help making it a habit? Try these 8 tips.
- Citrus water: Citrus contains vitamin C, which produces growth hormone and helps boost metabolism. Men’s hormone experts like Dr. John La Puma even recommend drinking 3L of citrus water a day as one of the five simple steps men can do to jump start their metabolism.
- Sparkling water! It’s so fancy, it gets an exclamation mark.
- Infused water: Strawberries, cucumbers, mint, watermelon – these recipes from Greatist can inspire you to try different concoctions and make it in batches so you’re ready to go. Consider the agave to be optional – we’ve made our own and left it out, and it’s still delicious without the added sugar.
- Water, on the rocks.
The occasional alternative to water, in moderation, could include:
- Coffee: While you should be aware that too much coffee can lead to restlessness and other complications, there are some benefits. Studies have shown that caffeine can improve mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance, and general cognitive function. Dave Asprey (aka The Bulletproof Executive) talks about some of the mental benefits he receives from coffee here. Skip the sugar, whipped cream, and syrups – those add-ons can carry more teaspoons of sugar than a soda. Have you tried Bulletproof Coffee yet?
- Kombucha: It is naturally carbonated, promotes a healthy culture of biotics (think: probiotics = gut health) in our system, and can be a tasty alternative to soda. We’ve even made some in the WellnessFX offices – check out the how-to.
When it comes to your soda consumption, neither diet nor regular soda is a healthy choice. As we continue to learn more about these processed foods and beverages, it may be time to empty the cup full of Diet Coke and fill it with some of these healthier alternatives that will help your path to optimal health. We will gladly raise our own glass – cheers to being your best self.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.