By Karen Sherwood, Nutritionist at Sports Club/LA - Boston
One of the biggest addictions of our time also happens to be one of the biggest health scams ever created. Dieters everywhere are still flocking to diet soda to provide a tasty, fat-free treat which leaves a burning question: Does zero calories on a label equal zero on the waistline? The answer is a flat out no.
The body wants what it recognizes, not what it cannot process. Beverages like diet sodas contain substances like sucralose (splenda), and aspartame (nutrasweet), both still widely available despite the fact that they wreck havoc on our health. Here are 3 reasons you should avoid a diet beverage:
1. Weight gain: Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame are hundreds to thousands times sweeter than sugar. They may show zero calories on the label but that’s not what the body sees. Once you have a drink, the receptors in the brain are waiting for incoming sugar so insulin gets released, except there are no calories! And what happens next? Distortions in the body’s hormones and biochemistry end up making you crave more sugar since the cells in the brain now have to make sense of what just took up space in the body.
A study back in 2011 at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio followed 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years and found their waists grew more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. And those who drank 2 or more? A 500 percent increase in waist size! These sweeteners also confuse the metabolism, so calories burned at the gym are also much less.
2. Health problems: There have been hundreds of published studies linking artificial sweeteners to serious health problems like stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and obesity. Research at Harvard Medical has recently suggested that drinking diet sodas are associated with a decline in kidney function in women, while a study in Denmark found the risk of giving birth prematurely increased by 38 percent among women who drank diet soda.
Additionally, almost all of these drinks include artificial coloring which have been linked to cancer. Junk food like this moves us away from healthy foods like fresh veggies, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and healthier beverage alternatives like herbal teas, fresh juices, or organic coffee in moderation.
3. It’s addictive: That delicious synergistic combo of caffeine and aspartame is the perfect storm! We have a taste, it hits the brain like morphine and we’re soon asking for more. There’s also the likelihood that the brain cells become desensitized where we wind up needing more and more. Best to gradually reduce these beverages to very little or none at all. By leaning into the change it will help reset the taste buds slowly causing little to no side effects.
Are you a diet soda drinker? If so, comment below and let us know your thoughts, or if you plan to cut it out of your diet!