By Arjun Walia
Diet soda has come under intense scrutiny over the years, and for good reason. It has been found to leave people at risk for weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, among other serious consequences.
According to Susan E. Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioural neuroscientist:
Public health officials are rightfully concerned about the consequences of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, but these warnings may need to be expanded to advocate limiting the intake of all sweeteners, including no-calorie sweeteners and so-called diet soft drinks. Although it seems like common sense that diet sodas would not be problematic, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain.
Not only that, research has shown that these ‘zero calorie’ beverages interfere with the body’s learning responses, and the truth is, fewer calories doesn’t always mean less weight gain. “Research, including studies from Swithers and colleagues, shows that frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the opposite effect by confusing the body’s natural ability to manage calories based on tasting something sweet,” the Purdue release reveals. Swithers’ research is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Swithers goes on to describe the public misconception about these sweeteners that is leaving us all at risk:
There is a lot of pressure from the public health sector to find solutions to counter the rise of obesity and chronic disease, and there is a lot of money and business at stake for the food industry as it develops and promotes these products. Beverages are becoming political issues as government leaders and politicians seek regulation and taxing to limit their availability and consumption, but most of these measures exclude diet soft drinks because they are perceived as healthy.
It’s great that she made the industry connection, because the corporatization of science has taken over multiple industries. Dr. Marcia Angell, a physician and longtime Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal (NEMJ), considered one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals in the world has saidthat “it is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”
Artificial sweeteners are a big problem. A recent study, titled “Sugar and Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Risks of Incident Stroke and Dementia, A Prospective Cohort Study,” was published in the journal Stroke earlier this year.
Researchers gathered data from approximately 3,000 adults, and separated them into two categories. In people older than 45 years old, they looked at stroke risk, and for people older than 60, they focused on dementia. Their results showed that drinking diet soda nearly triples your risk of developing stroke or dementia. The study lasted for a decade, and the researchers “observed 97 cases of incident stroke (82) and 81 cases of incident dementia (63 consistent with Alzheimer’s disease).
This is just one of many studies to show such links. We’ve also written a number of articles regarding aspartame, so be sure to check those out if you’re interested.
Below is a a great infographic by Dr. Axe and his team that effectively summarizes the problem.
When you consume diet soda, not only is it addictive, but it can also cause damage to your body. If you’re drinking diet soda, it’s most likely because you want to lose weight and cut calories. But artificial sweeteners can be as addictive as recreational drugs, nicotine and alcohol… And it doesn’t help you lose weight. Artificial sweeteners seem to confuse the body’s natural ability to manage calories based on tasting something sweet. People tend to then overeat. And get this: People who consume artificial sweeteners are twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome, too.”