Consumers have the misconception that just because a product says “diet,” it has to be “healthy.” Through mass marketing, soda companies have misled consumers to believe that low or no calorie diet soda is a healthier alternative to regular soda.
“Instead of sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, diet soft drinks are filled with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and Splenda. They are added to diet sodas to make them taste as sweet as regular sodas,” said Donna Starke, a nurse practitioner in student health services at Florida A&M University.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, artificial sweeteners are highly processed with chemicals. Aspartame and Splenda are common chemical sweeteners that have serious side effects like hallucination, seizures, and cancer. Long-term intake of these sweeteners can be potentially hazardous to one’s health.
Clifton Loriston, a nutritionist and owner of CFB Fitness states, “You may be saving calories by drinking diet soda, but at the cost of consuming chemicals with dangerous side effects.”
Studies have proven the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages like diet soda is also associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Although some people are aware of these health concerns, individuals like Kimberly Bryant, a product of a diabetic household, still continues to consume diet soda. Bryant prefers Coke Zero to any other low calorie drink. She says it makes her feel better physically and mentally knowing it has fewer calories than a regular diet soda.
However, when asked if she was aware of the health issues behind diet sodas, she said no. But Bryant is not alone in her lack of knowledge on this issue. Stark said, “Seventy-five percent of diet soda consumers don’t know the dangers behind the beverage they’re consuming. Most are just drinking the soda because they feel it’s a healthier way to consume soda.”
CDC research confirms that twenty percent of the U.S. population consumes diet drinks on a given day. And among that twenty percent, eleven percent consumed sixteen ounces or more when they chose a diet beverage.
“Since diet soda lacks sugar, it cuts calories and reduces the impact on your blood sugar levels. When you eat sugar, it raises your blood glucose levels, which can provide immediate energy. However, your blood sugar levels can crash quickly, making you feel fatigued and hungry. Because diet sodas do not contain sugar, they impact your blood sugar levels less. This is especially advantageous for diabetics,” said Dr. Erika Johnson, director of Coumadin Clinic in California.
Diet soda has also become a substitute beverage for people with diabetes and high blood pressure, since diabetics must carefully monitor their sugar intake.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that people choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, which can help with weight management. For example, substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories. People who don’t like drinking water should try adding a wedge of lime or lemon to their water to improve the taste.
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