In the 1970s, research showed that high fat consumption was the main cause of heart disease. Researchers, however, failed to differentiate between healthy fats and unhealthy fats, so the food industry rushed to reduce fats in its products. In an effort to do this while maintaining texture and flavor, corn syrup sugars, refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners have been used. Today, obesity is a public health issue, and diabetes and heart disease are linked to excessive consumption of sugar and carbohydrates. A high intake of carbohydrates and refined sugars is one of the main causes of insulin resistance, the main cause of NCDs.
Sodas are made with carbonated water and sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup or sucrose, phosphoric acid, natural flavors and caffeine. Diet soda is the same except the sugar is replaced with aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose and stevia. Diet sodas are quickly becoming the choice of the “health conscious” population. Are they really helping us, let me share the evidence I found.
(Also read: Women’s health: 7 healthy eating habits for women with PCOS)
Should you consume diet sodas?
1. Studies have shown that people who consume diet sodas tend to eat more food than others. The San Antonio Heart Study found that participants taking large amounts of “diet drinks” (more than 21/week) had a double risk of obesity compared to those who did not.
2. The idea of cutting out 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 consumption of these keeps the receptors in our brain stimulated, therefore when we have a healthier fruit with natural sugar, we can reject the more complex taste. and find it less appealing. It also drives us to opt for nutrient-free artificially flavored foods instead of nutrient-dense whole fresh foods.
3. There is limited evidence that some artificial sweeteners can trigger the release of insulin due to sweet taste receptors in the brain. Excess insulin production over time leads to long-term insulin resistance, which puts you at risk for obesity and increased risk of diabetes.
4. Artificial sweeteners are also addictive in animal studies. Thus, increased consumption may make you crave a drink without nutrients, which will prevent you from choosing a healthier drink.
5. Making diet sodas your drink of choice will keep you from consuming healthier calorie-free natural 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 Beet Kanji: A fermented symbiotic drink (containing both pre and probiotic bacteria) rich in antioxidant 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 essential to any balanced meal are skim milk, Lassi and Chaas.
So should we totally avoid diet sodas?
Excessive consumption will have a detrimental effect on your health. A multi-ethnic atherosclerosis study found that daily consumption of diet soda increased the risk of metabolic syndrome by 36% and the risk of diabetes by 67% compared to no diet soda.
Choose wisely, a diet soda is better than a regular soda, a cup of coffee or tea without sugar is better than any soda, and a fresh whole fruit with natural sugar and nutrients that add health and fiber is best.