Way back in the '70s, research showed that high consumption of fats was the leading cause of heart diseases. The researchers, however, forgot to differentiate between healthy fats and unhealthy fats, as a result, the food industry went into overdrive to reduce fats in their products. In an effort to do so and yet maintain texture and flavour, sugars from corn syrup, refined carbs and artificial sweeteners were used. Today obesity is a public health problem and diabetes and heart diseases are being linked to excessive sugar and carb intake. A high intake of refined carbs and sugars is a leading cause of insulin resistance, the main cause of NCD.
Sodas are made up of carbonated water and sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup or sucrose, phosphoric acid, natural flavours and caffeine. Diet soda is the same except that the sugar is substituted with aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and stevia. Diet sodas are fast becoming the "health-conscious "population's choice. Are they really helping us, let me share the evidence I found.
Should You Consume Diet Soda?
1. Studies have shown that individuals who consume diet sodas tend to eat more food quantities as compared to others. The San Antonio Heart Study found that participants taking high quantities of "diet drinks" (more than 21/ week) at double the risk of obesity as compared to those who did not.
2. The idea of removing empty calories from sugar while following a diabetic diet is to train our brain receptors to overcome cravings for sweets. Artificial sweeteners have a very high intensity of sweetness and excessive and continuous intake of these keeps the receptors in our brain stimulated, as a result when we have a healthier fruit with natural sugar, we may reject the more complex taste and find it less appealing. This also pushes us to go for nutrient-free artificially flavoured food instead of nutrient-dense whole fresh food.
3. There is limited evidence that certain artificial sweeteners may instigate the release of insulin due to the sweet taste receptors in the brain. Excessive insulin production over time leads to insulin resistance in the long run, setting you up for obesity and increased risk of diabetes.
4. Artificial sweeteners are also found to be addictive in animal studies. So increased intake may make you crave for the fix of a nutrient-free drink , cutting back on you choosing a healthier drink.
5. Making diet sodas your drink choice will prevent you from consuming healthier natural calorie-free drinks like:
- Fresh lemon water: Rich source of Vitamin C and Potassium
- Fresh Coconut water: Electrolytes and good hydration with moderate calories
- Fresh Carrot or Beetroot kanji: A fermented symbiotic (containing both pre and probiotic bacteria) drink that is rich in antioxidants minerals and vitamins.
- Green tea; rich source of Catechins and antioxidants that help reduce belly fat.
- Other healthy drinks that may not be calorie-free but are a must for any balanced meals are skimmed milk, Lassi, and Chaas.
Then should one avoid diet sodas totally?
Excessive intake will have a detrimental effect on your health. A multi-ethnic study of Atherosclerosis found that daily intake of diet sodas increased the risk of metabolic syndrome by 36% and the risk of Diabetes by 67% as compared to not taking any diet sodas.
Choose wisely, a diet soda is better than a regular soda, A cup of sugar-free coffee or tea is better than any soda, and a fresh whole fruit with natural sugar, and nutrients that add health and fibre is the best.