Diet soda has been widely recommended as an alternative to sugary beverages. It promises to help people cut their sugar consumption while enjoying their sweet drinks.
The market first introduced diet soda for people with diabetes. However, consumers later realized that the less sugar-sweetened drinks could also help in weight loss.
However, some health experts have raised concerns that diet drinks may be doing more harm than good on people. The artificial sweeteners used in the product have been linked to chronic diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Long-term intake of such sweeteners could cause changes in the gut, according to Eunice Zhang, clinical instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles. These changes, such as disrupted metabolic processes, altered function of the gut microbiome and lower activity of gut enzyme, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“This response may be exacerbated by the ‘mismatch’ between the body perceiving something as tasting sweet and the expected associated calories,” Zhang said in an article posted on The Conversation. “The greater the discrepancy between the sweetness and actual caloric content, the greater the metabolic dysregulation.”
How Diet Soda Ruins Your Diet
Aside from problems with the gut, the effects of high intake of artificial sweeteners can reach the brain. Research showed that commonly used sugar substitute sucralose reduces activity in the brain region called the amygdala, which supports taste perception and the experience of eating.
A separate study also found that people who consume high amounts of diet soda are more likely to have lower activity in the brain’s “caudate head.” This area plays an important role in the feeling of satisfaction.
“Researchers have hypothesized that this decreased activity could lead a diet soda drinker to compensate for the lack of pleasure they now derive from the food by increasing their consumption of all foods, not just soda,” Zhang said.
She added that the growing evidence shows that consumption of sugar substitutes could also put people at risk of obesity like traditional sugar. The negative effects of diet soda may be greater on overweight or obese people who are trying to lose weight.
Zhang suggested that consumers and health practitioners should rethink the health benefits of diet drinks and consider the “true risks.”
Battle Against Diet Soda
Meanwhile, a California appeals court recently dismissed a lawsuit against Diet Dr Pepper over its products. A woman claimed the company misled her to buying diet sodas for 13 years to help her lose weight.
Shana Becerra regularly consumed diet soda for more than a decade but failed to cut some weight. However, the three-judge panel sided with the manufacturer, saying the use of “diet” in the product only indicated it contained fewer calories than regular ones, The New York Post reported.
“Just because some consumers may unreasonably interpret the term differently does not render the use of ‘diet’ in a soda’s brand name false or deceptive,” the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said.