You probably have a few friends or family members who swear by diet soda's benefits. They say it tastes the same as regular soft drinks, and they never fail to mention diet soda's lack of calories when you order your sugary Coke. Their obsession with their sugar- and calorie-free beverages may drive you a little crazy—but you've still wondered: could diet soda help you maintain your weight and health?
Your question doesn't have a simple answer. On the one hand, diet soda lacks the sugar or high fructose corn syrup that makes most soft drinks so fattening. However, soda's other ingredients—and the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks—don't make you healthier either. We'll explore the diet option's health effects in more detail below.
A Word of Caution
Before you read our list of potential health effects, keep in mind that the studies around diet soda's potential benefits and drawbacks haven't received full exploration yet. Scientists and researchers have yet to fully determine whether artificial sweeteners or other ingredients lead to these effects. They also have yet to completely explore diet soda's influence over a long period of time.
Diet Soda's Drawbacks
Diet beverages' potential health effects include the following.
1. They still trigger insulin production, which often leads to fat storage and weight gain.
Don't think that because diet soda lacks calories that it can't contribute to weight gain. In fact, it might make you pack on additional pounds because you think you can drink more of it. Artificial sweeteners still signal your body to begin insulin production and store fat, so they can make you gain weight, especially if you drink a lot of diet soda.
However, if you exercise and diet properly, a few diet sodas here and there won't make you heavier.
2. They may contribute to developing type 2 diabetes.
As mentioned above, artificial sweeteners trigger insulin production just as the sugar or high fructose corn syrup in normal sodas do. Because your body still needs insulin to process these sweeteners, you could develop type 2 diabetes if you consume too much of them. But again, as long as you keep your weight low and have a proper diet, you shouldn't develop this condition.
3. They decrease your bone density.
All kinds of soda, including the diet variety, contain chemicals that can reduce your bone density. And as your bones become less dense, they lose the ability to support your body when you do heavy-duty activities.
4. They lack nutritional value.
While diet soda lacks calories, it doesn't contribute anything to your nutrition either. It lacks all nutritional value whatsoever. And like all soda, it also contains a lot of acids and sodium that can have a detrimental effect on your oral and gastrointestinal health.
5. They can cause headaches in some people.
Some studies have shown that people who consume artificial sweeteners develop more headaches and migraines, but research hasn't conclusively proven the correlation just yet.
6. They stain your teeth just like regular soda.
As mentioned above, soda contains acids that can harm your dental health. These acids wear down your enamel and expose the slightly yellower dentin underneath. Most sodas also contain citrus or cola, which will also make your teeth a slightly yellower color. And if you drink more diet soda because you don't have to worry about calories, then your teeth may stain more quickly.
7. They increase your risk for depression.
Studies have also shown a potential correlation between all soda and depression. And if you have depression, you often have a higher risk for weight gain and conditions like diabetes.
8. They dull your taste buds to naturally sweet foods like fruit.
Artificial sweeteners are often hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar, and regular sugar has more sweetness than fruits and other natural foods. You'll lose your ability to enjoy healthier, natural foods as you drink more diet soda, so you may drink the diet option more often to satisfy your sweet tooth. And, as mentioned above, artificial sweeteners still contribute to weight gain.
The Bottom Line
Like any kind of soda, diet soda doesn't boost your health or help you lose weight. After all, soft drinks contain a lot of unhealthy ingredients in addition to sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you really want to lose weight and have a healthier lifestyle, drink water instead. You may find that the more hydrated you keep your body, the less soda you need to energize it. A healthy body feels alert on its own.
If you really need something sweet, opt for fruit or a smoothie. Fresh fruit smoothies contain a treasure trove of helpful vitamins and nutrients (including antioxidants) that can ward off diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, and other health problems. Essentially, they do the opposite of what all soda, including diet soda, does to your body.
For more tips on how to manage your weight, check out the rest of our articles.