Many moons ago, my drink of choice was Coke Zero.
When I became pregnant back in 2011, however, I remember reading that I should avoid drinking diet soda. Not only does diet soda oftentimes contain higher amounts of caffeine compared to regular soda, but there were also a few observational studies that had linked the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas to cancer in lab rats.
That was enough for me to throw out the diet soda and make a switch. I began drinking more water and only regular soda in moderation.
Years later, the research on artificial sweeteners causing cancer has been found to be inconclusive according to the American Cancer Society. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) believes aspartame to be safe, and the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has found no increased risk of various types of cancers associated with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Although I can accept that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda probably won’t cause me to get cancer, there are still a few reasons why I continue to avoid diet soda today.
If too much caffeine is not good for pregnant women, it’s probably not very good for anyone, right? At least that’s my personal take on the subject. The March of Dimes recommends pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg or less per day. This is equal to about one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Check out our post about risks with caffeine.
Unfortunately, diet sodas often contain more caffeine than their counterparts. For example, the caffeine content in a 12 fl oz can of Coke is 34 mg whereas the caffeine content in a 12 fl oz can of Diet Coke is 46 mg. That’s a difference of 12 mg per serving. Although this might not seem excessive, combined with a morning cup (or two) of coffee, an iced tea at lunch, or a piece of chocolate after dinner, it’s well over what most experts would consider a moderate amount of caffeine.
And it’s easy to understand why caffeine should be consumed in moderation. It’s a beast, we wrote a whole post about it.
It can cause a plethora of unhealthy and downright dangerous side effects, including insomnia, nervousness and anxiety, fatigue, stomach irritation, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure, which could lead to a stroke, heart attack, and heart disease in the long term.
Sugar vs Artificial Sweeteners
Although there is no conclusive evidence linking artificial sweeteners to cancer in humans, there are several other studies which have found that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, can increase the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Artificial sweeteners are 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Because artificial sweeteners are so much sweeter than sugar, they stimulate taste buds in a way that sugar does not. Over time, these artificial sweeteners can change the way people taste food. One of the ways it does this is by raising a person’s tolerance for sweet foods. This means that, in order to satisfy a sweet tooth, one would have to consume more and more sugar. Additionally, healthy foods with less sugar and/or more natural sugars can become unpalatable, making it more difficult to choose healthy food and drink options.
Artificial sweeteners affect also hormones and can slow down one’s metabolism. Artificial sweeteners, like the ones in diet sodas, stimulate hunger hormones, making a person hungrier and more likely to consume additional calories throughout the day. Seriously, I definitely don’t need any more whacked out hormones telling me to eat more food or slowing down my metabolism any more than it already is. Getting older is already doing that for me in spades.
It’s just plain gross
Now, this one is just my personal opinion, but I much prefer an ice cold Coke or Dr. Pepper to its diet counterpart. I truly believe that, for me, diet soda was an acquired taste. Somewhere along the way, I adopted Coke Zero as my go-to drink because it allowed 20-something me the illusion of a healthy lifestyle. After all this time without it, though, when I do drink a diet soda, I can really taste that sweet, chemical flavor. Yuck.
These days, I’m more likely to drink plain old ice water or sparkling water; however, when I do choose to drink soda, it’s usually a single serving of Coke or Dr. Pepper.