Artificial sweeteners may increase your risk of health problems
Diet soda has hardly any calories, so many people think it’s a healthier alternative to regular soda. Nutrition experts, however, say otherwise.
According to those experts, people who drink diet sodas every day have a higher rate of obesity than people who don’t. And being obese raises your risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and some cancers (breast, colon, endometrial, kidney and pancreatic).
But how does a drink with so few calories make you fat? Shouldn’t it help you lose weight? No. Research shows people who consume diet beverages take in significantly more calories from food than regular soda drinkers, and these extra calories add up to a higher number on the scale.
In addition, some studies suggest sugar substitutes like sucralose, aspartame and saccharin, commonly found in diet drinks, can throw off your body’s natural metabolic processes, causing you to store fat instead of burning it.
Worse: Some artificial sweeteners are several hundred times sweeter than sugar. Dietitians say these additives may create changes in your body and brain that increase the appeal of other sweet foods. But you think you’re cutting calories by drinking diet instead of full-sugar soda, so you may feel think it’s OK to give into these cravings.
And some early research suggests artificial sweeteners may increase your risk for urinary and bladder cancers.
The bottom line: The less soda you drink—diet or regular—the better. Here’s how to kick your soda habit:
- Don’t keep soda in the house. Stock your fridge with healthier options or drink water. If plain water gives you the blahs, try sparkling water or infuse tap water with fruits or vegetables. Put cucumbers or berries into a pitcher of water and let it sit overnight.
- Avoid the office vending machine—even if that means refusing to carry change or singles on you.
- Change your soda habits. Your brain develops cravings based on your habits. If you always have a soda with lunch, that’s when your brain will want it. Switch things up.
- Snack healthy. Grab a guilt-free treat, like apple slices or baby carrots.
- Take a walk. Physical activity can provide the energy you get from sodas.
- Avoid other sweetened beverages. Sweet tea, fruit juices and flavored coffee drinks contain many of the same unhealthy additives found in soda.
- Think moderation. If you simply must have your diet soda, drink the smallest amount possible.