We’re sure you’ve heard the warning: Diet soda (or pop!) is not good for your health—but do you know why? Learn what’s really in your can of pop, some of the dangers associated with these ingredients and why you should avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Both regular and diet sodas contain some seriously scary ingredients. Regular soda is jam-packed with added sugars, namely high-fructose corn syrup. The American Heart Association sounded the alarm on added sugars and recommends limiting them because of their link to high blood pressure and triglyceride levels—which are both risk factors for heart disease. These sodas are high in calories—empty calories—and can contribute to weight gain.
In an attempt to make soda “healthier” by eliminating some of the sugar and calories, companies created diet sodas filled with artificial sweeteners. Some of the top artificial sweeteners found on the market are sucralose, stevia and aspartame—and it turns out these guys did little to help (more on this in a minute).
But wait, there’s more…
That’s not all you’ll find in diet soda (these popular ingredients are usually found in regular soda as well). Look for caramel color—which can contain 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a contaminant on California’s list of carcinogens after a study demonstrated 4-MEI may have increased the occurrence of lung cancer in mice. You’ll see phosphoric acid which erodes tooth enamel and has been linked to urinary changes—which may indicate a link to kidney disease.
Diet soda also has mold inhibitors. Yep, you read right. These guys (sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate) can cause severe damage to the DNA in the mitochondria—which is the cell’s source of energy generation.
Another unsettling ingredient? Natural flavors. There’s nothing natural about them; these can, in fact, be hundreds of chemicals. Companies can use the term “natural,” to indicate that something has been derived from foods found in nature.
Artificial Sweeteners and Health Risks
There are some startling studies out there that link artificial sweeteners to some pretty nasty health problems. Harvard Medical School conducted an 11-year study that concluded kidney decline is associated with artificial sweeteners. Another study from the University of Minnesota found that one diet soda a day increases your risk of a metabolic syndrome by 34 percent; and the 24-year long Iowa Women's Health Study involving 23,000 women found that those who drank three sodas a week had a 74% higher risk of endometrial cancer. Other research has indicated these ingredients can increase your risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
And scarier still, studies have demonstrated a link between aspartame and cancers; specifically, a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a connection between aspartame in diet soda and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Don’t think you’re off the hook if your soda isn’t diet; sugar is linked to many different health issues, such as chronic inflammation, obesity, heart disease, diabetes—and cavities. Your best bet is to cut soda out of your life completely. Try seltzer water instead and add some whole fruit for flavor.