DISCLAIMER: To be dreadfully honest, talking about soda definitely makes me feel vulnerable because diet soda had always been a sore spot for me. As a Type 1 Diabetic, I always felt that diet soda was one of the only substances that didn't cause a spike in my blood sugar and was super satisfying. The issue is when you go overboard and use any substance as a staple rather than a treat, you can create an addiction. Recent research however supports that diet soda may have more harmful long term effects that we may originally have thought. For those of you that hold onto diet soda (or regular) as a staple, we can work together for you to learn of healthier substitutions. I'm speaking to you as someone with empathy if you are trying to stop a soda/diet soda addiction, or at least cut it down. You can contact me anytime through my WEBSITE, or directly through my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, let's talk about diet soda vs regular.
This question was asked by Jace Warren, instead of just writing a short comment, I felt I could do this ongoing controversial topic more justice by devoting an actual post. For those of you that have health-related questions, you can post any (or all) of them on HapiBody, and a health professional will answer you. Pretty cool, huh?
This seems to be the ongoing debate which constantly receives changing conclusions. I have been researching reliable Biomedical research literature from Pubmed and Harvard Health to give you the facts, rather than just my personal opinion.
To keep it brief, the majority of research shows that there is a possible link of drinking diet soda and developing metabolic syndrome (large waistline, low HDL, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar) (1) (see table below). The issue with increasing your metabolic syndrome risk factors is that is increases your chances of dying from coronary heart disease (heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, narrowing of the arteries, etc) (2). Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people in the U.S. in a single year (3). That's 1 of every 4 deaths in the U.S. (3). Which is absolutely heartbreaking since CHD is a somewhat preventable disease through proper diet and exercise, and if that doesn't do everything needed, medication and a good doctor.
Use table below to see if you have Metabolic Syndrome:
Created by Ariel Warren, RD, CD. Information from Pubmed (2)
Your risk factors are used to calculate your 10-year risk of developing heart disease. The NCEP has an online calculator that you can use to estimate your 10-year risk of having a heart attack.
- High risk: You’re in this category if you already have heart disease or diabetes, or if your 10-year risk score is more than 20 percent.
- Moderately high risk: You’re in this category if you have two or more risk factors and your 10-year risk score is 10 percent to 20 percent.
- Moderate risk: You’re in this category if you have two or more risk factors and your 10-year risk score is less than 10 percent.
- Lower risk: You’re in this category if you have zero or one risk factor.
Even if your 10-year risk score isn’t high, metabolic syndrome will increase your risk for coronary heart disease over time.
Back to the Soda Debate.
With short term use, diet sodas may be helpful with weight loss (1), but research supports that over time, diet soda can increase your chances of metabolic syndrome and heart-related deaths (2). Another fact to consider is that diet soda may have adverse affects on your gut flora, which can also explain metabolic disturbances (5). More research needs to be done, but it appears that diet soda may affect some people and not others (5). In one study conducted by the journal Nature, there was a small group of 7 people and when all of them drank diet soda (who did not drink diet soda before the study), four of the seven developed significant disturbances in their blood glucose even after short-term exposure to artificial sweeteners. Again though, that was a group of only 7 people, but the idea that diet soda affects some people and not others (or not as much) is quite interesting (5).
As far as Regular Soda goes, the research is a bit more clear because we are not dealing with artificial sweeteners that mess with the brain (as possibly with diet soda). Regular Soda is full of sugar and has little to absolutely zero nutrient value. Excess sugar equals extra calories which can cause extra weight gain. The real issue with regular soda is that when consumed, it is often misplacing other foods/drinks that would at least have some nutrient value. In conclusion, regular soda is high in sugar and calories, contains zero nutrients, displaces other nutrient-dense food choice possibilities, increases chances of weight gain (from drinking access calories) and increases metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes (6).
TAKEAWAY: Water is best. If you do love soda, regular or diet soda should be consumed as a treat rather than made into a lifestyle staple. If you are trying to lose weight, diet soda could be the better alternative as long as it is used short-term and at for a moderate use (4). Both regular and diet soda are possibly linked to increased chances of metabolic syndrome which increases your chances of dying from coronary heart disease (2). Diet soda may have a link to weight gain because of possible disturbances caused in the brain and gut flora (but more research is needed) (5), but such data is usually revealed with high consumption and diet soda use for extended periods of time. Regular soda on the other hand is more clear cut because it is sweetened with sugar rather than artificial sweeteners. Let me be clear though, regular soda does not cause weight gain, excess calories (from drinking regular soda) is what can cause an individual to gain weight.
Bottom Line: Regular or Diet, use as a treat, not a lifestyle staple (unless you are a diabetic, drink diet soda as the treat, not regular).
Shout out to Jace Warren for your great question! Hopefully this article has been helpful to you and other readers. If you or any of your friends have health-related questions, ask on HapiBody at anytime, a team of health professionals are here for you!
Biomedical Research Citations