I used to be a diet soda junkie. I consumed lots and lots of them each day, thinking that they were good for me since they had the magic word “diet” in the title. And I have plenty of friends who drink regular sodas.
But are sodas – whether regular or diet – that bad for your health? Let’s look at some of the findings:
- Diet may be a more important factor than soda consumption for some health issues. Amy Norton of Reuters Health Information just reported that on a new study that found that overall diet may matter more than diet soda consumption as far as raising the risk of diabetes and heart disease. The researchers analyzed data on 4,000 Americans who were part of a longitudinal study on heart health. Over a 20-year period, 827 of the participants were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which is a group of risk factors such as extra weight around the waist, unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar. These risk factors can lead to heart problems and diabetes. While the researchers found that young study participants who drank diet beverages were more likely to develop metabolic syndromes than those who didn’t, they also found that the participants’ diet made the issue more complex. For instance people who didn’t drink diet beverages and ate a healthy diet had the lowest risk of metabolic syndrome. Study participants who also ate a healthy diet but who drank diet beverages had a slightly higher rate of metabolic syndrome. And the participants who drank the most diet soda and whose diet included the most meat, processed foods and sugar had the highest rate of metabolic syndrome.
- Teeth may suffer from consuming soft drinks. Soft drinks – whether diet or regular – may cause tooth decay. “There are many factors that affect whether decay forms,” the American Dental Association stated. “What we do know is that when teeth come in frequent contact with soft drinks and other sugar-containing substances, the risk of decay formation is increased."
- Milk consumption – and bones – may lose out to sodas. Drinking sodas, whether diet or regular, may replace the consumption of milk, which is an important source of calcium. “Lower calcium levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones are weak and prone to fracture,” the Mayo Clinic website stated. “It's possible that the phosphoric acid and caffeine found in soft drinks may promote the loss of calcium in bones.”
- Women who drink sodas may be more at risk of kidney damage. Drinking two or more cans of regular soda daily may increase a woman’s risk of kidney damage. MedpageToday.com reported in 2009 that women who consumed the most soda had an 86 percent increased risk of developing a sensitive marker for early kidney disease. However, diet sodas did not have this same effect. Furthermore, men didn’t develop the same sort of marker for early kidney disease when drinking soda.
- Soda may raise the risk of respiratory problems, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. MedicalNewsToday.com reported on a new study that followed 16,000 people over the age of 16 from 2008-2010. The researchers found soda drinkers had almost a 13 percent increased risk of developing asthma and a five percent increased risk of developing COPD. However, the researchers could not determine whether this change was due to the soda consumption or a generally unhealthy diet.
While the results are all over the map as far as the impact that soda can have on your health, I think the general take away is that large amounts of soda consumption may be part of a generally unhealthy diet (think of your lunch order of “Hamburger, fries and a soda” at your closest fast food drive-through window. If you’re really addicted to sodas, try to figure out how to make them an occasional treat (instead of your primary beverage of choice) in your overall healthy diet. As for me, I'm now opting for a glass of water instead of my usual diet cola!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Norton, A. (2012). Complicated link between diet drinks, health: study. Reuters Health Information.