Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is There Danger in Your Diet Soda?

heart disease
Diet sodas raise risks for strokes and
heart attacks.
Is diet soda bad for you? Study after study adds more evidence that the most common diet sodas – those sweetened with aspartame – may be less safe than you think. In spite of this, weight-conscious, soda-loving Americans continue to consume tons (an estimated 5,250 tons!) of aspartame annually. Nearly 90 percent of that aspartame is specifically from diet sodas. So, how bad is it really?  Let’s look at the evidence.
  • A 2006 study reported in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health NCBI (The National Center for Biotechnology Information) identified carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered to rats.
  • A 2007 study revealed that even low doses of aspartame increases cancer risk.
  • A 2011 study that followed 2,500 study participants for nine years showed a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks, for those who drank diet soda each day.
  • A study published in early 2012 indicates that aspartame can cause brain damage by leaving traces of methanol in the blood.
  • A study published in late 2012 has linked aspartame to a heightened risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia.This study is gaining particular attention due to its substantial scope, being based on a 22-year data collection period.
risk factors
Sparkling water or with fresh fruit
garnish is a refreshing, healthy alternative to
diet soda.
Can we at least have faith in the assumption that drinking a soda sweetened with aspartame instead of sugar will help us control weight gain or lose weight? No, according to a 2011 study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. This study, which followed 474 diet soda drinkers for 10 years, found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet-soda drinkers. Since an increase in weight increases the risk factor for heart disease and many other health problems, such as, cancer and diabetes, it certainly seems that we are better of drinking the sugar-sweetened sodas. 

So, in short, other than the risk factors that aspartame-sweetened drinks may make you fat and may lead to cancer, brain damage, strokes, and heart disease, it’s not a problem to enjoy your daily dose of diet soda. If you still can.

Weight Gain and Diet Soda

If aspartame is this bad for you, then why do we continue our love affair with diet sodas? Do we enjoy a tall glass of cardiovascular risk factor increase? Of course not  But there are a couple of key reasons for diet soda’s popularity:
  • Let’s start with the obvious – how refreshing it is to enjoy the throat-cooling tickle of a carbonated drink, especially when it’s sweetened with our favorite flavors! 
  • Second, Americans are consumed with physical appearance, wanting the perfect physique, like the ones we see on TV every day. This explains why the diet and weight loss industry is one of the biggest and fastest growing businesses; we all want to lose weight.
Combine those two factors and you get the diet soda – the way we can cut out the calories from sugar while still enjoying the taste experience of a fizzy, flavorful soda. Unfortunately, nearly all diet soft drinks on the market today are sweetened with aspartame.

Does this mean we need to give up completely on carbonated drinks to avoid the dangerous side effects? Nearly all health experts say the same thing – that we would be better off drinking a glass of water instead of soda. But since you already know that, let’s assume that you want what I want – to continue enjoying the pleasing taste of sodas, and yet do so without the sugars and without the dangers of aspartame. The good news is, you do have options.  For example:
heart disease
Add fresh lime, kiwi or other fruit to your
home made carbonated beverages.
  • Check out the ingredients of the diet carbonated beverages available at your local health food store or health food grocery. The diet sodas they carry often include those that are sweetened with alternative sweeteners that have not shown the same level of risks as aspartame-sweetened sodas, such as stevia, coconut palm sugar, sucralose, or sugar alcohols. 
  • Consider making your own sodas. This allows you to control both how and how much the beverage is sweetened. Soda maker machines are becoming increasingly popular for this reason. They can be purchased at many major retailers and online. 
  • Experiment with reducing your sweet-flavored assumptions about sodas by allowing yourself something more fanciful than plain water and yet tastier than water and healthy for you. My favorite recipe: Buy ordinary soda water (unflavored sparking water) and add lemon or lime juice to taste. You still get that delightful, ice-cold throat tingle, but virtually no calories. 
Are soda maker machines safe to use? Or is the soda just as bad as diet soda from the store? The big advantage of the machine is that you control the answer to that question, as it’s up to you what diet soda ingredients you allow to go in there. Just be advised that one of the above studies also linked the caramel coloring used in most typical cola recipes to vascular issues as well. And there are plenty of other ingredients you can add that reduce the health of the beverage, such as caffeine, the choice of artificial sweeteners, sodium, and phosphoric acid. But at least with a soda machine and your own recipe, you know exactly what’s in there. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


  1. Most diet sodas are obviously bad for our health. Do we really need to discuss that anything that is artificial is good or not?

    -Beatrise Penixe

  2. My mother in law has suffered two strokes and has brain damage. She is in a psych ward now. She drank at least four
    Diet Cokes a day for years. She is in her mid 60's