July 10th, 2013
05:01 PM ET
Study: Diet soda may do more harm than good
Diet soda drinkers have the same health issues as those who drink regular soda, according to a new report published Wednesday.
Purdue University researchers reviewed a dozen studies published in past five years that examined the relationship between consuming diet soda and health outcomes. They then published an opinion piece on their findings in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, saying they were “shocked” by the results.
"Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health," said Susan Swithers, the report's author and a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences. “But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect.”
Artificial sweeteners in diet soda fulfill a person’s craving for a sweet taste, without the calories. But that's the problem, according to researchers. Think of it like crying wolf.
The fake sugar in diet sodas teases your body by pretending to give it real food. But when your body doesn't get the things it expects to get, it becomes confused on how to respond. While the studies they reviewed only looked at diet soft drinks, the researchers suggest that this could apply to other products that contain artificial sweeteners as well.
"You've messed up the whole system, so when you consume real sugar, your body doesn't know if it should try to process it because it's been tricked by the fake sugar so many times," says Swithers.
On a physiological level, this means when diet soda drinkers consume real sugar, the body doesn’t release the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure.
Video: Are diet sodas dangerous to your health?
Diet soda drinkers also tend to pack on more pounds than those who don’t drink it, the report says.
“Research shows that sweet taste can increase appetite and the regular consumption of the high intensity sweetness of artificial sweeteners may encourage sugar cravings and dependence,” says CNN diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis.
The artificial sweeteners also dampen the "reward center" in your brain, which may lead you to indulge in more calorie-rich, sweet-tasting food, according to the report.
The American Beverage Association says the report was "an opinion piece, not a scientific study."
"Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today," the association said in a statement. "They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe."
Diet soda's negative effects are not just linked to weight gain, however, the report says.
It found that diet soda drinkers who maintained a healthy weight range still had a significantly increased risk of the top three killers in the United States: diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
"We've gotten to a place where it is normal to drink diet soda because people have the false impression that it is healthier than indulging in a regular soda," says Swithers. "But research is now very clear that we need to also be mindful of how much fake sugar they are consuming."
There are five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners: acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), neotame, saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low), and sucralose (Splenda).
“Saccharin was one of the first commercially-available artificially sweeteners, and it’s actually a derivative of tar,” says Swithers.
Even natural sweeteners like Stevia, which has no calories and is 250 times sweeter than regular sugar, are still processed extracts of a natural plant and may have increased health risks.
“Just because something is natural does not always mean that it is safer,” says Jampolis.
There more studies and research that need to be done. But in the meantime, experts say: Limit consumption.
“No one is saying cut it out completely,” says Swithers. “But diet soda should be a treat or indulgence just like your favorite candy, not an everyday thing.”
Sugary drinks linked to 180,000 deaths worldwide
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!
Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful post. Thank you for providing these details.
You're so cool! I don't suppose I have read anything like that before. So great to find another person with some unique thoughts on this subject. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!
Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody that actually understands what they are discussing over the internet. You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people have to check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you aren't more popular since you surely possess the gift.
Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful post. Thank you for supplying this information.
This is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise informationÖ Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!
Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for providing this information.
Iím impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog thatís both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I came across this in my search for something regarding this.
I really like reading a post that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!
I was very pleased to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every part of it and I have you book-marked to see new information on your blog.
Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day. It's always interesting to read content from other authors and use a little something from their web sites.
Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and the rest of the site is also very good.
This is a topic which is near to my heart... Cheers! Where are your contact details though?
There is definately a lot to know about this subject. I love all the points you've made.
Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes that produce the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!
Hello! I could have sworn Iíve been to your blog before but after looking at many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím certainly pleased I stumbled upon it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back regularly!
Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very useful. Thank you for sharing!
An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you ought to publish more about this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but typically people do not discuss such subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!
This is the perfect site for anyone who hopes to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a new spin on a topic that has been written about for decades. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!
Hi there! This post couldnít be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I will send this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thank you for sharing!
After looking at a handful of the blog articles on your blog, I really appreciate your technique of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website as well and tell me how you feel.
Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that will make the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!
Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this site needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the info!
You need to be a part of a contest for one of the finest blogs on the internet. I am going to recommend this site!
Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes that make the largest changes. Many thanks for sharing!
Iím amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog thatís both educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I found this in my search for something concerning this.
Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I am going to forward this article to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!
Hey there! I just wish to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have got right here on this post. I am coming back to your website for more soon.
Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am going through troubles with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting the same RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!
I used to be able to find good information from your blog posts.
There's certainly a great deal to find out about this issue. I really like all the points you've made.
Next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I genuinely thought you would probably have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.
Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!