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The Diet Soda Dilemma

Diet soda has been in the news recently with a report claiming these drinks may leave consumers at risk for an increased waist and elevated glucose levels which could lead to diabetes for those at risk for the disease.  So should we stay away from diet sodas as an alternative to the sugary sweet sodas?

Diet Soda

Image: Paul/

The study, performed by the University of Texas Science Center at San Antonio looked at the consumption of diet soda over a period of over a period of two decades.  One of the findings was that those who consumed over two diet sodas per day experienced an increase in waist circumference that was 500 hundred times greater than those who didn’t consume the soda!

Further, in a related project, scientists fed aspartame – the artificial sweetener found in diet soda – to mice prone to diabetes.  The results showed some relationship to elevated glucose levels, and equal to slightly diminished insulin levels.  The slightly diminished insulin levels are consistent with the decline of pancreatic beta cells over time.  These cells make insulin and imbalances over time could ultimately lead to diabetes.

So what’s the straight story?  An increased waist circumference has been linked to increased rates of diabetes, heart disease and other health concerns. The study adjusted for other lifestyle factors such as smoking, exercise and ageing but it is not clear that it focused on the overall diet habits of the participants.  So while diet soda can be one factor, it is important to remember that overall diet and increased fat consumption can also contribute to an increased waist circumference.

As for the link between aspartame and increased glucose and diminished insulin production in mice, so far, this has not been tested in humans.  The results though, point to a cautionary tale.  Upon testing, aspartame may prove to trigger the same results – a link to diabetes over time.

A very informal poll of our CalorieKing fans on Facebook showed that most of you prefer to stay away from diet sodas for a variety of reasons ranging from taste to a personal dislike of aspartame/artificial sweeteners.  Our recommendation is one of caution.

CalorieKing suggests you restrict your diet soda consumption to no more than two diet sodas a day.  While it is an option over the sugar-laden regular soda, water is a much healthier option.  Why?

  • Diet drinks with artificial sweeteners don’t retrain the palate.  For those of us trying wean off sugar this is key.  Artificial sweetness fool your taste buds into being ready for heightened sweetness and can then render less sweet, but healthy foods like fruits and vegetables tasting pale in comparison.
  • Sodas – diet or regular are highly acidic.  Continual bathing of the teeth with this acid is bad for your dental construction.  At least rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda, or use a straw.
  • Sodas can displace more nutritious options such as milk or vegetable juices – which are valuable contributors to your nutritious intake.

As with many things, for diet sodas it appears that all things in moderation is a sensible approach.  Avoid the regular sugary sodas, and limit diet soda intake.  When in doubt, reach for water!

1 Response to The Diet Soda Dilemma

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