Don't Pop That Top Just Yet: Reasons for the Diet Soda Scare

By Kathryn Simmons on February 18, 2013

I am one of those people who will opt for a Diet Coke over Coca-Cola any day. However, I stand alone with my reasoning behind it—or at least with a very small group.

I just like the way it tastes.

Regular Coke tastes like pure crap to me, like carbonated battery oil. (Not that I would know what that tastes like, but you get the idea.) And I will admit that those saved calories are an added bonus.

Recent studies, however, are proving that the switch from any regular soda to diet may do more harm than good. So I delved through countless articles and listened to some of the experts to provide you with the basic idea behind it all. So before you pop the top off that can of caramel-colored awesomeness, grab a cup of hot cocoa or tea, and keep reading.

Contents of Diet Soda

If you read the ingredients directly off the label, a typical diet soda consists of carbonated water, caffeine, caramel color, natural flavors, phosphoric acid, citric acid, aspartame, and potassium citrate—the worst of these are aspartame, phosphoric acid, caramel color, and natural flavors.

Aspartame is connected to an increase in the risk of cancer. This is illustrated more in animal studies than human studies; however, that’s enough of a connection to limit my own intake, at least. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be one of those test subjects, indirect or otherwise.

An increase in aspartame in our diets can also aid in the overeating process. According to Cheryl Forberg, R.D., author of Flavor First, “Some studies suggest that when our taste buds sense sweetness, the body expects a calorie load to accompany it. When that doesn’t happen, it may cause us to overeat because we crave the energy rush our body was expecting.” This means that aspartame can actually trick our bodies into gaining weight. It can also dull your taste buds, so you feel you need to eat more high-calorie foods rich in flavor to achieve that satisfying, full feeling. An increase in aspartame also leads to hear palpitations, fatigue, high blood pressure, dizziness, sleep disorders, and more.

Phosphoric acid erodes your tooth enamel. It also aids in urinary changes, which promotes kidney stones; and this can the lead to chronic kidney disease if left untreated.

Caramel color is quite possibly carcinogenic to humans, and although it is in a wide of array of food and beverage products, the the amount and frequency of consumption provides is what worries most health professionals.

“Caramel color is made by a process involving the heating of corn or cane sugar and other carbohydrates to achieve the desired color.” — Coca-Cola Co.

Caramel color can also lead to an increase in lung cancer due to one of its ingredients and contaminants, 4-methylimidazole. All the sugar and carbohydrates involved in the production process doesn’t sound very appetizing either.

Lastly, natural flavors aren’t always so innocent in diet sodas either. A plethora of chemicals can be used to make up the natural flavor, but that could be anything. Just because they’re derived from foods found in nature, it does not make them healthy.

Other Health Risks

If you want even more information on those last seven, they are explored in more detail in an MSN Healthy Living article by Mandy Oaklander.

After reading through and separating the facts from the mere speculations, I think I’ll start putting down that occasional Diet Coke and opt for water instead. I don’t even drink coffee or tea, as they aren’t as good for you as most advertisements and some health professionals claim. The implications and effects just aren’t worth it.

* Photo Courtesy of Leah Kiefer’s blog post “6 Reasons To Put That Diet Soda DOWN Right Now.”

I am a Clemson University alumna and a current grad student at the University of South Carolina--yes, you read that right. I am the Vice President of a non-profit organization that is devoted to service. I also market for them in addition to others who let me take them on as clients. I love art and graphic design, reading, traveling, spending time with friends and family, anything Castle (the TV show!) and singing.

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