One mainstream drink manufacturer made its bones claiming to be the “real” thing, but what is real about soda, especially diet soda? If you want to answer that question, try looking at the label before pouring your next glass or opening a bottle. That’s a horror show that will keep you from getting a good night’s sleep for weeks. As a general rule, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s a safe bet you shouldn’t be putting them into your body on a regular basis.
Of course, the marketing scheme for diet soda products is designed to steer you away from the label by promising you a low-calorie drink that has no sugar or fat. Lucky you; that sounds amazing. What you are getting in exchange, though, could potentially impact your health on a much larger scale. Based solely on the marketing claims, it's easy to decide that diet soda is a healthy drink, but is that what your doctor would say?
How Much Soda is Too Much Soda?
The occasional glass of diet soda isn’t going to give you brain cancer, but is that what most people drink? Let’s say Joe decides to start watching his weight, so he starts drinking diet soda. His wife Jane can eat anything and not gain a single pound, so she drinks the regular stuff, sugar and all. Initially, they limited their soda intake to just meals — that’s three sodas a day. Joe is struggling with his mid-morning need for a pick-me-up, though, so he adds another glass to compensate. Jane understands that soda equals calories, so she starts skipping lunch and just having the soda. That sugar rush buzzes her through the next hour or so until she can hit the vending machine on her break for more energy.
What started out as a 3-glass a day habit — an average of 21 glasses a week — is now at least four. That’s 112 glasses a month and 1,344 a year of what essentially boils down to a chemical cocktail. Maybe at some point, Joe decides to add another glass in the evening instead of snacking — that tacks on an additional 336 glasses of soda a year.
If you think the statistics on this fictional couple are shocking, take a look at some real numbers:
- A study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center found that about a fifth of this country’s population consumes diet drinks daily with 11 percent drinking more than 16 ounces a day. For those keeping track of the math, that adds up to 5,376 ounces of diet soda consumed by one person in a year.
- According to the CDC, at least 20% of the US population over the age of 2 (talk about starting early) consume diet drinks on a given day.
- Diet soda consumption rates have increased by 17 percent since 1965.
The increase in consumption is due in part to the manufacturer going from regular to bucket-sized bottles. In 1950, a bottle of soda was 6.5 ounces. By 2011, a large single serving of soda went up to 42 ounces. The bigger the drink, the more you will drink, so by increasing the volume, they actually enhance their sales volume and bottom line. Still think diet soda was designed for your health benefit?
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What About Water?
It is safe to say that Joe and Jane are not drinking water at the same time they are drinking soda. Most healthcare professionals recommend eight glasses of water each day — that’s 56 glasses a week and 2,688 glass a year. Sixty percent of the human body is made of water and drinking it is how you replenish that supply. What happens to the body if you substitute half of your water intake with diet soda?
Diet Soda and Your Health
The word that really pops out when you are looking at a cooler full of drinks considering what to buy is the word diet, but is that accurate marketing? Recent studies indicate it isn’t. Although diet sodas do have zero calories, they don’t necessarily improve your chances of losing weight. One of the primary health markers used by medical science today is belly fat and studies show that by drinking diet soda, Joe is likely to have three times as much belly fat as the healthy guy who sticks to water. Visceral fat, that’s the technical term for that spare tire around your middle, is associated with an increased risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Early death
Diet soda intake contributes the development of metabolic syndrome, a condition defined by a cluster of symptoms including:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Excess fat around the waist
- High triglyceride levels
Combined, these problems put you at risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. More recently, artificially sweetened drinks — that’s what all those chemicals are for — have been linked to dementia and stroke by the American Heart Association. Their study found that a person like Joe who drinks diet soda daily is three times more likely to develop dementia. He is six times more likely to have a stroke at some point in his life, as well.
So, what should you be drinking? Let’s face it, water is about as good as it gets when it comes to healthy drinks, especially if you focus on something that packs a punch like alkaline water. The things you put into your body should be clean, fresh and natural. As you stare at the label on your next diet soda, see if those terms apply to any of the ingredients there?