Breaking your soda habit will improve your health. Simply switching from regular soda to diet soda may save you calories, but it doesn't lower your risk for preventable medical conditions. Instead, drink unsweetened tea or water with a little lemon or lime for a no-calorie beverage, or have a small amount of 100-percent fruit juice or skim milk, which will increase your vitamin and mineral intake.
Although diet soda doesn't contain any calories, drinking it may make you more likely to gain weight. One possible explanation for this is that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda change the way your brain processes sweet tastes, making people who drink a lot of diet soda crave sweet foods and eat more of them, according to a study published in "Physiology and Behavior" in November 2012. Of course, this could also be due to people overcompensating for the amount of calories they save by drinking diet soda instead of regular soda and eating too many calories throughout the day.
Drinking diet soda may increase your risk for both Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, according to a study published in "Diabetes Care" in April 2009. Study participants who drank diet soda at least once a day were 67 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and 36 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome that those who didn't drink diet soda at all.
Artificially sweetened beverages like diet soda may also increase your risk for heart disease. A study published in "Acta Diabetologica" in December 2011 found that young people with diabetes who drank higher amounts of diet beverages had higher triglyceride, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, levels than those who didn't drink these beverages often.
While the evidence for the link between diet soda and cancer isn't as strong as that for diet soda and some other health conditions, a study published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in October 2012 found that men who drank at least one diet soda per day had an increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and both men and women diet-soda drinkers had an increased risk for leukemia compared to people who didn't drink any diet soda.
- Diabetes Care: Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)
- Physiology & Behavior: Altered Processing of Sweet Taste in the Brain of Diet Soda Drinkers
- Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine: Gain Weight by “Going Diet?” Artificial Sweeteners and the Neurobiology of Sugar Cravings
- Acta Diabetologica: Sugar-sweetened and Diet Beverage Consumption is Associated With Cardiovascular Risk Factor Profile in Youth with Type 1 Diabetes
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.