Are Diet Sodas Healthy?

Many people drink diet sodas to help with weight loss, to keep weight off, or simply because they think that diet sodas are healthy. Some prefer the taste of diet sodas, and the fact that they’re devoid of calories and sugar is just an added bonus. Are diet sodas healthy, guilt-free indulgences, or could it be that diet sodas are actually bad for you?

Why do people think that diet sodas are healthy?

There are those who view diet sodas as a healthier alternative to the sugar-sweetened regular sodas, which everyone knows are bad for you. Others believe that diet sodas are actually a relatively healthy beverage choice due to the absence of sugar and calories. Looking on the back of a can of diet soda might show you that there’s a little bit of sodium and practically nothing else listed under nutritional facts.

People falsely assume that because diet sodas do not contain sugar or calories, diet sodas are good for you. Click To Tweet

Diet sodas are marketed to appear as though they are good for you, or at least a healthier option than sugar-sweetened beverages. Diet Coke had a campaign saying they are “supporting awareness of women’s heart health programs” while Diet Pepsi brags about “the new skinny can.” For many consumers, the general feeling of healthiness works even without any supporting facts.

There’s more than nothing in a diet drink

The focus tends to be on what’s missing from diet sodas – the sugar and calories – rather than what’s actually in the beverages. Many diet sodas contain caffeine, which can have negative effects on a person’s health. Diet sodas also contain artificial sweeteners. Sweeteners in diet drinks include:

  • acesulfame potassium (200 times sweeter than sugar)
  • aspartame (200 times sweeter than sugar)
  • stevia ( 200-400 times sweeter than sugar)
  • sucralose (600 times sweeter than sugar)

While there is no research to suggest that artificial sweeteners are themselves bad for you, there are some risks involved with sugar substitutes. Even though you aren’t consuming sugar, you’re still conditioning your taste buds for sweets. This means that you’re more likely to crave  and seek out sugary foods and beverages than those who aren’t accustomed to sweets.

What does research say about diet sodas?

So are diet sodas healthy, or unhealthy? Are they a better choice than sugar-sweetened drinks? Much of the research on diet sodas is conflicting.

There are studies that suggest diet sodas could negatively affect your health:

  • The famous Framingham heart health study showed that people who drank diet soda regularly were twice as likely to have a stroke. However, this study shows correlation, but doesn’t prove causation.
  • Diet soda consumption is also associated with dementia, but again this doesn’t prove that diet soda causes dementia.
  • One study found that obese and overweight adults who drank diet sodas consumed more solid-food calories than obese and overweight adults who drank beverages containing sugar (such as regular soda).
  • A University of Minnesota study found that diet soda consumption could increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
  • Diet sodas could increase the risk for cardiovascular problems – such as heart attack and stroke – according to a study from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University. Those who drank one or more diet sodas every day were three times as likely to have a stroke than those who did not. The research was published in Stroke, a journal from the American Heart Association.

Change the way you think about diet sodas

Thinking that diet sodas are healthy may lead people to make less healthy decisions. This includes consuming more calories from food, and seeking less nutritious foods. You must still consider the other aspects of your diet regardless of whether or not you drink diet sodas.

Change your mindset about diet sodas. Don’t view them as something that’s good for your health, or something that should be a regular part of your diet. Instead, consider diet sodas a treat or indulgence for special occasions.

Diet sodas have no nutritional benefit. It’s better not to drink sodas, diet or otherwise. If you really want a healthy beverage, choose plain water. Unlike diet sodas, water can actually help you manage and maintain a healthy weight.