Some people swear by diet soda. Others are unsure of how beneficial it actually is. And science seems to lean more toward the latter. Diet soda was originally introduced in the 1950s and geared toward those with diabetes. But it has since taken on the role of an actual diet drink, meant for people who are trying to watch their weight. However, this popular beverage has almost no positive nutritional value, and experts say there are other reasons it should be avoided, too.
You may want to avoid diet soda. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Diet soda is low in calories, which Americans love to hear. But it offers hardly any nutritional value, so drinking it doesn’t impact your health positively. According to Healthline, the average can of diet soda contains no fat, sugar, calories, or protein, which means you’re not putting anything significant into your body. Plus, it only contains 40 milligrams of sodium. While low-sodium foods and beverages are good for you, 40 milligrams doesn’t really affect your day’s nutrition.
This isn’t what you want to hear, but one Harvard study showed that those who drank diet soda regularly were actually more likely to gain weight over time than those who did not. This is because diet soda tricks your body into thinking it needs more calories, which leads you to consume more in other meals throughout the day.
Harvard Health notes that diet soda has been linked to metabolic syndrome, which is any condition associated with the development of cardiovascular problems. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess belly fat, and more can develop by drinking too much diet soda. Down the road, this can lead to problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Also, soda cans are often lined with BPA, which is a compound known for its toxic side effects. Studies suggest that drinking from containers lined with BPA can lead to high blood pressure and other heart problems.
A recent study done involving diet soda and gut bacteria found that consuming diet soda may cause harmful damage to your body’s microbiome. The digestive and intestinal tracts are filled with good bacteria that keep the body healthy. When experts examined the effects of artificial sweeteners on the body’s good bacteria, they found that the sweeteners caused both DNA and protein damage to the bacteria. Plus, all of the bacteria was altered in some way.
While the study incorporated more artificial sweetener than would be found in standard can of diet soda, it speaks volumes to the potential dangers of drinking several cans per day. Gut bacteria helps regulate the body’s digestive system, so it’s crucial that nothing stands in its way of doing so. More studies need to be done on the subject to determine its true validity.
It’s hard to find a substitute for something as delicious as soda. But if you crave that fizzy feeling of a carbonated drink, indulge in sparkling water instead. Add a splash of orange or cranberry juice to sparkling water to give it sweet flavor but keep it healthy. Try ordering unsweetened iced tea out at a restaurant rather than a diet Coke. Or, stick with plain tap water and limit your diet soda intake to just every once in a while. Cutting out soda is easy if you have a few alternatives.
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