10 Unsettling Facts about Diet Soda

Mar 1st, 2011

We've all heard that if you're going to drink sodas, choose diet. This may seem like the best option for diabetics and people who are watching their weight, but there is more to consider when drinking diet sodas than just calories. We may not know exactly what these carbonated colas are doing to our bodies, but there is plenty of research that suggests they aren't doing much good. Here are 10 unsettling facts about diet soda:

  1. Causes Diabetic Complications: Diet sodas are often recommended to diabetics, who have to reduce their sugar intake. However, research suggests that the artificial sweetener, aspartame, may actually cause negative side effects for diabetics. Aspartame may cause diabetic complications or worsen them, such as retinopathy, cataracts and metabolic disorders. The artificial sweetener can also make it harder for diabetics to properly control their insulin levels, in addition to affecting appetite or causing weight gain.
  2. Dissolves Tooth Enamel: Even though diet sodas do not directly cause cavities like the sugar in regular sodas, the acid in diet sodas may contribute to enamel breakdown, which makes you more susceptible to tooth decay when sugar is consumed. Diet sodas are very acidic. For example, Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper and Diet 7-Up have pH values ranging from 3.39 to 3.67. Acid starts to dissolve tooth enamel at pH value of 5.5 or less.
  3. Contains a High Caffeine Amount: One 12oz can of diet soda contains anywhere from 23 to 54 mg of caffeine. The amount of caffeine varies by diet soda brands, but most diets sodas contain more caffeine than regular sodas. If you're caffeine intake exceeds 500 to 600 mg a day, your health could be in risk. High caffeine consumption may cause headaches, restlessness, anxiety and other potential health problems.
  4. Leaches Calcium from Bones: Diet sodas leach calcium from your bones in several ways. The phosphoric acid in diet sodas can increase calcium excretion in urine, therefore promoting calcium loss. Caffeine can also zap calcium from bones and weaken them if the body is not replaced with enough calcium. Getting an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D every day, as well as limiting caffeine intake to 300 mg or less a day, will help diet soda drinkers maintain strong and healthy bones.
  5. Increases Stroke Risk: Recent medical studies have determined a link between diet soda consumption and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. The study used 2,500 participants to analyze the health effects of daily diet soda consumption. It found that 61 percent of people who drank a diet soda daily had an increased risk of heart problems compared to non-soda drinkers. It also accounted for smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption and calories consumed per day.
  6. Causes Weight Gain: Diet sodas have been linked to causing weight because sugar substitutes, such as saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, neotame and acesulfame-K, may actually increase people's cravings for more food to feel satisfied. Research shows that artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar and can be addictive. This may increase cravings and consumption of larger and sweeter desserts to get your sweets fix, which may result in weight gain.
  7. Causes Dehydration: Diet soda is a diuretic, which increases the flow of urine and calcium excretion. Depending on how many diet sodas you drink and how much water you consume, this process can cause dehydration. Excessive diet soda consumption can also cause a laxative effect and shed some water weight, but it's very important to be aware of the signs of dehydration and stay replenished with water.
  8. Increases Risk of Developing Metabolic Syndrome: Research suggests that drinking diet soda may increase one's chances of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a group of risk factors that could lead to heart disease, stroke and type 2diabetes. Abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance and high cholesterol are some of the known risk factors. Daily diet soda drinkers, who don't exercise and eat unhealthy foods, are increasing their chances of developing metabolic syndrome at a faster rate than those who don't drink sodas but eat the same way.
  9. Inceases Risk of Cell Damage: A preservative found in diet sodas, called sodium benzoate, has been linked to an increase in cell damage. Sodium benzoate is added to sodas to prevent mold. When mixed with the additive vitamin C, it produces a carcinogenic substance called benzene. Studies also show that sodium benzoate may damage the mitochondria, a very important part of DNA within cells. The cells might malfunction when damaged, causing a number of diseases like Parkinson's, cirrhosis of the liver and neuro-degenerative diseases.
  10. Soda Used to Contain Cocaine: When Coca-Cola was first created by pharmacist John Pemberton in 1886, it contained cocaine, which was thought to cure various diseases and ailments. The "feel good" drink was said to cure morphine addiction, neurasthenia, headache and dyspepsia. Coca-Cola may have taken out cocaine from the recipe in the early 1900s, but both regular and diet Coca-Cola still use a cocaine-free coca extract in the recipe.