The Diet Sodas That Cried Wolf on Our Bodies
July 23, 2013

The Diet Sodas That Cried Wolf On Our Bodies

We had all better think twice about ordering that diet soda. For decades, people have drunk diet because they thought that it was healthier than full-flavored soda. For one, it has less calories. Secondly, it has less sugar. In fact, most diet sodas have a sugar substitute like acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), neotame, saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low), and sucralose (Splenda). According to CNN, one of the very reasons people choose diet may in fact be even less healthy than regular sodas.

See, Purdue University researchers looked into the effect of diet sodas and released an opinion piece, not a study, in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. Though it was an opinion piece, the opinion came from examining recent studies that looked at the relationship between diet sodas and health outcomes. Here’s what CNN said about the findings:

“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.”

So, instead of fulfilling the sweet need with fake sugars, physiologically the body does not release the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure when one does consume real sugar. The fake sugar fakes the body out. Moreover, because the fake sugar does not fulfill the sweet craving, diet soda drinkers end up eating more sweet foods, thus consuming more calories and packing on more weight.

The report did not just focus on weight, though. “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.”

I have also blogged about the relationship between soda and depression. Though the focus was on full-flavored soda, it also discussed diet soda’s role in depression. Here we have further opinion that soda is more and more dangerous to our health in other ways, especially diet sodas.

What’s more is that it may be less an issue of the sodas themselves and more an issue from the fake sugars, which are present in other foods and beverages. Obviously, if these trick the body, but do not fulfill the sugary need, then they do that whether in a diet soda or cookie.

On the other side, the American Beverage Association responded, “Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today. 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.”

Clearly, more study needs to go into what Purdue University started. If sodas and fake sugars are having this much impact on our health, then we need to know it and understand it. If we choose to drink or eat something that harms our health and we know that it will do so, then we make a decision to be unhealthy. On the other hand, if we eat or drink something without full understanding its impact, or if we do so thinking it is a healthier option (as is the case with the sugar substitutes), then that is a different decision altogether.

I like a Diet Coke just as much as the next person. Really, I do. I do not drink soda often, opting for water or milk more often than not, but I do enjoy a soda on occasion. But if the researcher’s opinion is right, then I will definitely rethink drinking it at all. No flavor is more important than my health. That’s the truth.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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