April 20, 2017

Diet Soda and your Health

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

It feels like summer is fast approaching and we are thinking of fitting into swimming suits once again.  Some might feel that switching to diet soda is a way to cut calories, yet still enjoy the beverage.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news yet again, but it doesn’t work that way.  All soda has negative health effects, and should be consumed very sparingly, if ever. 
Pepsi has announced that Diet Pepsi will be switching from aspartame to sucralose, as the artificial sweetener.

So why is Pepsi Co switching?  As many studies over the years have shown, aspartame is just hazardous to your health. It is carcinogenic in many ways, and people are rejecting its use.

Sucralose, or Splenda, isn’t really a better alternative at all. It has many of the same adverse effects as aspartame including, headaches, seizures, GI problems, heart palpitations, respiratory difficulties, and ironically, weight gain.

Research published in the “Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health: in 2008, showed that, in animals, Splenda reduced the beneficial gut bacteria by 50%, it increased the intestinal ph, and is absorbed by fat (contrary to previous claims.)

Decreasing your gut bacteria is no small factor.  It is one way these sweeteners cause obesity and diabetes. A recent study found that artificial sweeteners decrease function in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in your body.

They were also shown to produce glucose intolerance in otherwise healthy people. Glucose Intolerance is a well-known precursor to type 2 diabetes. It also plays a role in obesity because the excess sugar in the blood ends up being stored in fat cells.

As I read somewhere, switching from aspartame to sucralose is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There’s not much hope of improvement in the situation.

All artificial sweeteners are hazardous to your health, your weight in particular. Study after study has shown that the more “diet” foods replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, the heavier people who eat them get. These sweeteners disrupt normal sugar metabolism.  This promotes other health problems associated with excessive sugar consumption, including heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

One particular study found in the ”Journal of American Geriatrics Society “ published in 2015 studied people over age 65 for 9 years. What they found was a “striking dose –response relationship” between diet soda consumption and waist circumference. Other factors such as exercise, diabetes and smoking were added to the formula and accounted for.

Those who drank no diet soda increased their waist circumference by an average of 0.8 inches over 9 years. Occasional diet soda drinkers added an average of 1.83 inches. Daily diet soda drinkers gained an average of 3.2 inches – four times that of those who drank no diet soda at all!

Generally, all sweetened beverages are one of the main culprits causing obesity and related health problems such as diabetes and heart and liver disease, to name a few.

There is one sweetener, stevia extract that has none of the negative effects of artificial sweeteners. It is a natural plant based sweetener, and has not been shown to have negative health implications.

Obviously, plain water would be the best alternative for your health. But, it you need a little sweetener in your tea, like I do, stevia appears to be a safer, healthful alternative.