Is Drinking Diet Soda Bad for You? 5 Health Risks

They're Hard on Your Body

They Can Be Hard on Your Heart and Kidneys

Drinking diet soda may or may not keep your waistline slim, but it may put you at an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. That's even if you maintain a healthy BMI. For example, 2012 study had 2,500 men fill out food frequency questionnaires to measure how many soft drinks (diet and regular) they consumed each month. The researchers followed up in 10 years to discover that those who drank diet drinks every day had a 43 percent increase in vascular events, including stroke and heart attacks. And that was after the study authors controlled for risk factors such as physical activity, daily calories and smoking habits! [CNN]

And even more alarming, a 2011 study examining data gathered on more than 3,000 women found that drinking more than two servings of artificially sweetened beverages her day was linked to a 30 percent decline in kidney function as they aged. [Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology]

They May Not Make You Skinnier

In 2011, the American Diabetes Association presented a study that found a correlation between drinking diet soda and a wider waistline [HSC News]. The University of Texas Science Center San Antonio assessed 474 participants, measuring height, weight, waist circumferences and diet soda intake. In the next 10 years, researchers conducted three follow-up exams to see how participants' bodies evolved over the years. At the end of the study, the results showed that diet soda drinkers had a 70 percent greater waist circumference than those who abstained from artificially sweetened sodas. Guzzling two or more a day could give you a waistline 500 percent greater than those who steer clear of these types of sodas. It's possible that other eating habits caused these changes in body composition, but it's still a connection that may have you saying so long to diet drinks.

You May Get Drunk Faster

In an effort to save calories, it's tempting to choose diet soda for your slimmed down version of a rum and coke. However, this diet trick may prove to be a problem. According to a small 2006 study and more recent 2013 U.S. study, those who mixed vodka with a diet mixer were observed to have a have a higher blood alcohol concentration and breath alcohol concentrations – 18 percent higher -- than those drinkers who sipped on a full-calorie mixer [Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research]. Regular sugar can slow down the rate that your body absorbs alcohol into your bloodstream, leaving you less buzzed. And don't forget: When you're tipsy, you're less likely to pass up unhealthy snacks (hello late-night slice of pizza), leading to bigger diet troubles.

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  • Dellorto, Danielle. "Study: Diet Soda May Do More Harm Than Good." July 10, 2013. (September 10, 2013).
  • Gardener, Hannah et al. "Diet Soft Drink Consumption Is Associated with an Increased Risk of Vascular Events in the Northern Manhattan Study." Journal of General Internal Medicine. September 2012. (September 10, 2013).
  • Kirkwood, Caitlin. "Trick Taste Buds but Not the Brain: Artificial Sweeteners Change Brain's Pleasure Response to Sweet." Scientific American. September, 5, 2013. (September 10, 2013).
  • Marczinski, CA. "Artificial sweeteners versus regular mixers increase breath alcohol concentrations in male and female social drinkers." Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research. April 2013. (September 10, 2013).
  • Nettleton, J. et al. "Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)." Diabetes Care. April 2009. (September 12, 2013).
  • Sansom, Will. "Related Studies Point to the Illusion of the Artificial." UT Health Science Center. June 27, 2011. (September 11, 2013).
  • Strawbridge, Holly. "Artificial Sweeteners: Sugar-Free, But at What Cost?" Harvard Health Publications. July 16, 2012. (September 9, 2013).
  • Wu, KL. "Artificial Sweetened Versus Regular Mixer Increase Gastric Emptying and Alcohol Absorption." American Journal of Medicine. September 2006. (September 9, 2013).

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