To Drink Diet Soda or Not to Drink Diet Soda, That is the Question

Health Writer

There has been an ongoing debate in the medical community regarding diet soda. It would seem that a zero calorie beverage is the perfect answer to the obesity epidemic.  After all, most nutritionist and dietary experts do not want you guzzling liquid calories.   Liquids are not satiating and frankly, most of us don't even count the calories of soda, sweetened waters, smoothies, blended coffee drinks and other calorie-laden drinks when we tally daily total calories. So drinking a few diet sodas daily, which offers fizz without calories, seems to be a no-brainer.

The problem appears to be a group in the population who chooses diet drinks in order to somehow then justify their consumption of burgers, fries, pizza and other high calorie processed foods. They feel they are doing their dietary diligence (and calorie diligence) by limiting liquid calories,which should give them freedom to eat what they want.

The problem is that (a) diet soda may have some potential to expose you to cancer risk due to artificial ingredients over time (b) diet sodas may confuse certain brain signals because your brain senses the sweetness of the beverage (though it is a zero calorie sweetener) and react to the lack of "fuel calories" by instigating a hunger mechanism, so you basically eat more because the real sugar is not there and (c) there is some dental enamel erosion that comes from sipping lots of even diet sodas and (d) diet sodas can be a significant source of extra caffeine in your system and since teens on diets often drink lots of diet soda, this can add to the sleepless cycle they often experience. Lack of sleep on a regular basis is associated with weight gain.

So what's the bottom line on diet soda?

Keep it to under 12 ounces a day. That way you are also not replacing healthier beverage choices like skim milk and water. Teens and women should have 2 fat free servings of dairy daily and they should not be replaced with cans of diet soda. And plain H2O should be the go-to beverage for your daily liquid needs. Other beverages you can enjoy include tonic water, club soda, water that you flavor with a bit of juice, unsweetened tea.

It should be noted that Diet Coke has now replaced Pepsi in sales, so sales of regular Coke place it in the number one position, and Diet Coke now follows in the #2 sales position worldwide, according to a new survey.