Thursday, July 28, 2005

What's So Wrong With Drinking Diet Sodas?

While I was on vacation this past week in Tennessee, my father said something to me that I would like to get some feedback from my readers about. He noticed how much diet soda I liked to drink and made the statement:

"Drinking that much diet soda is not good for you."

Nevermind the fact that I no longer guzzle down gallons of sugary sodas anymore. Nevermind the fact that I lost 180 pounds drinking lots of Splenda-flavored, caffeine-free diet sodas. Nevermind that fact that I have been able to keep that weight loss off by continuing to drink high quantities of diet soda along with my gallon or so of water intake each day.

Somehow, none of that matters because "drinking that much diet soda is not good for you."

Say what? Can someone help me with this? I just don't get it. Sure, we had a ridiculous study come out in mid-June claiming diet sodas make you fatter than regular soft drinks. But what about real life? Is there anyone else who LOVES drinking diet soda and see it as an integral part of their weight loss and weight maintenance plan?

I know there are arguments from people about the dangers of caffeine and certain kinds of artificial sweeteners, but tell me what's so wrong with drinking diet sodas? They have been a godsend for me during my 180-pound weight loss and since. I am thankful for Diet Rite, Diet Coke with Splenda and others for being there for me with a GREAT tasting alternative to sugary sodas.

After today's blog entry about my "planned splurge" idea at her blog, Regina Wilshire is exempt from commenting on this. LOL! Just kidding. Actually, she offered her usual brand of evidenciary reasons for avoiding diet sodas in her previous comments on this subject six weeks ago. Here's what she wrote at the time:

While the results of the study may not make "common sense" - the body doesn't function metabolically on "logic", it functions on a primal level for survival - there are physiological reasons why a number of studies support the conclusion that even diet sodas may be counter-productive in weight-loss efforts (regardless of dietary approach - low-carb, low-fat, etc.).

The first and foremost among those is that "sweet" in the mouth - where digestion starts - stimulates an insulin response to prepare the body to metabolize the sugars/calories the body perceives to be coming in.

This is a well-documented response with aspartame in both animal and human studies.

We know insulin stimulates appetite, so one may be more inclined to eat more calories due to the insulin in the blood to raise blood sugar back up since insulin lowers blood sugars...with a diet soda the body has no blood sugar rise to lower, but now has insulin to deal with and declining blood sugar levels.

Second is the body's internal perception of calorie intake - something Fowler noted. Over time, eating or drinking artificially sweetened products may be counter-productive to the body's ability to gauge and self-regulate calorie intake.

It perceives calories coming in where none are and sets perceived calorie requirements higher over time since it thinks it's getting more calories than it actually is, thus stimulating more appetite and the potential to eat more calories than are actually needed over time.

Lastly, there is the self regulation of the person in what they are eating with the diet soda - if you drink a diet soda, the thinking goes with some people, you can eat something else that isn't necessarily a good choice since you've saved calories with the diet soda. Add that to the above two physiological responses within the metabolism and you've set yourself up to potentially eat too many calories.

Given the body of evidence that supports that artificial sweeteners elicit an insulin response and the potential to overeat calories one should be careful in using diet sodas within their diet - even low-carb. That is one reason (I think) that most of the low-carb diet authors limit how much artificial sweetener is allowed in a day when following a low-carb limits the potential for insulin response and thus increases in appetite from that insulin.

I understand what Regina is saying about the sugar substitutes, but I haven't seen any adverse effect on my weight because of it. Does anyone else have something to share that maybe I'm missing here? I am genuinely interested in hearing from people on both sides of this issue, whether you support drinking diet sodas or not. While I realize there are food purists out there who believe we should only be putting all-natural foods in our body and I respect people who can do that, I'm not one of them. That's not a good enough excuse to keep me from drinking my diet sodas.

Does anybody have a good reason why I shouldn't continue drinking my diet sodas?


Blogger . said...

>>>Regina Wilshire is exempt from commenting on this. LOL! Just kidding.<<<

OK, OK, I admit, I am a food purist - but let's be clear, I don't expect everyone to be!

Anyway, aside from the potential insulin spikes and overeating of calories while consuming diet sodas, there are other issues to consider...I can give you ten more reasons to consider reducing your diet soda intake:

1) Displacement of nutrients if you're drinking the diet soda to stave off hunger and missing the nutrients you need since diet (or regular) soda offers nothing nutritionally. You may want to ask yourself if you're drinking such a high volume of diet soda to keep from eating? That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if that's the case, you might consider replacing the diet sodas with water.

2) Phosphoric Acid may interfere with the body's ability to use calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis or softening of the teeth and bones. Phosphoric acid also neutralizes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which can interfere with digestion, making it difficult to utilize nutrients. (Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):537-43)

3) Tap water is used in the bottling process and usually isn't filtered so the sodas may contain chlorine, trihalomethanes, lead, cadmium, and various organic pollutants.

4) Dental erosion from the acidic nature of the diet soda (or regular), but you could just use a straw. (General Dentistry Mohamed A. Bassiouny, DMD, MSc, PhD Jie Yang, DMD, MMS, MS June 2005)

5) Possible link between carbonated beverages and esophageal cancer due to the gas causing burps and reflux of stomach acids. While that is a risk, esophagus irritation is much more common along with heartburn. This is because the carbonation causes increased gas in the stomach, which can stretch the lower esophageal sphincter (the trap door that keeps stomach contents in the stomach and not refluxing back into the esophagus) thus promoting reflux of acid backwards where it isn’t supposed to be.

6) Carbonation destroys enzymes and the friendly intestinal bacteria required for healthy digestion and immunity. Healthy digestion is key to ensuring that all the nutrients needed to support health and metabolism are available to the cells of the body that need them.

7) Artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe - although their approval is based on the thinking that small amounts will be ingested by the average person. Exceeding the amount considered "typical" places you into an unknown category for safety IMO.

8) Caffeine may be an issue if you're drinking the caffeinated sodas.

9) Tooth staining from the carmel coloring used in the colas. Erosion (see #4) of the enamel contributes to staining because it creates a rougher surface that holds onto the color.

10) Carbonation destroys enzymes and the friendly intestinal bacteria required for healthy digestion and immunity.

7/29/2005 9:35 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Deep down inside, Adam, I know you are right. You too, Regina. But I haven't seen any demonstrable evidence in my own experience that tells me drinking this stuff is going to harm my weight. It just hasn't for me. Maybe I'm weird or something (no comments on that!), but I don't see what the big deal is about drinking something that will not change your weight. Isn't that the result we have been looking for our entire lives?

7/30/2005 9:52 AM  
Blogger emery said...

Here's a good reason to cut back on diet sodas - your teeth. It's proven to erode enamel, cause decay, and of course cause cavities. For instance, diet coke alone has an acidic value of 3.39. The pH threshold for enamel decay is 5.5 That right there is enough to consider putting away the pop.

Furthermore, sodas dehydrate you. Drinking diet soda will dry out saliva in the mouth allowing the acids to work more effectively against you. The optimal time to drink diet sodas is with a full meal. Most people, as I notice, like to drink it during the day as a beverage thinking 'it has no calories, this is great' yet they're drinking it isolated creating something far worse.

And also, as mentioned, diet soda does contribute to weight gain. You may have mentioned it didn't particularly affect "you" but that is irrelevant, ultimately. The link has been made and proven to some varying degrees. If you're seriously interested in informing people as your site claims then it would be in your best interest to give them the facts; not your subjective opinions.

8/04/2005 11:45 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Richard Feynman said, "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

Regina put forth a beautiful theory that makes perfect sense and seems to agree perfectly with experiments.

But what you are doing is your experiment, and the results you are seeing are the results of that experiment. And the results you are seeing do not agree with Regina's theory.

9/22/2006 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a point to consider...with the trillions of doses of diet drinks over the years, you'd think that if the diet drink was actually "bad" for you, we would have a mountain of documentation that points to that conclusion. Instead, we have only a rag tag amount of peripheral studies that suggest that some aspects of diet drinks are "bad". And in most of these studies, no volume of drink is recommended as the most you should consume. The bottom line...they look pretty safe to me. There was one study that concluded that one soda a day (with or without sugar) increases your risk of cardiac disease by to combat this problem I drink at least two diet sodas a day...just to be safe. JP, MD

5/14/2008 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Regina is correct in her assessment of diet sodas. But there are some points I'd like to share from my personal notes and from self-experimentation. From my experience, diet sodas (or other flavored, non-calorie drinks) tend to suppress my appetite when taken alone. Thus, when I'm in the mood to snack, I drink black coffee, ice tea (without sweetener), or diet sodas between meals. However, I've noticed that I consume more calories when I have a diet soda with a meal. Without consciously realizing it my total caloric intake is higher. This is also true when I drink ice tea (without any sweetener). There is likely a post ingestive effect going on here, but my experience seems to confirm what researchers have found in animal experiments as well. Something I found out after the fact, in my attempt to understand what I was experiencing.

9/22/2009 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

I wanted to reply to Anonymous' (JP, MD) comment.

A lack of "a mountain of documentation"(if indeed this is true) cannot be used to suggest that diet soda is safe by default. You have to consider why there is a lack of such evidence. Is it because there is a lack of data? Or is it because the data is inconclusive, despite a "mountain of documentation"? You seem to suggest the former so I'll go with that assumption.

Did you consider that perhaps no one wishes to fund a study on this subject or devote sufficient funds to examine this issue. There are some studies in animals which suggest that diet soda is unhealthy from an biochemical standpoint, and there is data demonstrating its harm on teeth (primarily from the carbonation).

If you think diet soda is safe, I guess your idea of "pretty safe" is different from mine. But it is incorrect to suggest that a lack of data suggests safety by default.

9/22/2009 9:34 PM  
Anonymous BlindMeWithSciencePlease said...

I drink huge amounts of diet soda everyday, and am overweight by about 20 lbs. I've been at exactly this weight for 30 years or so. And I am one physically lazy SOB. But please read on.

I bought a Bowflex and started using it, and lost virtually all of of my excess weight, exactly as I expected and planned. It worked like a charm. I have done this sort of thing before, but only about three times in my entire life: somehow I get motivated, start working out, lose weight, and then eventually give up exercising. I then regain all the previously lost weight and return to my usual poundage.

The reasons I quit exercising have varied, but are always just different ways of rationalizing the fact that, in the end, I hate exercising. It's just that simple. I don't like the way it makes my muscles feel. I don't like being sweaty, even if just for half-an-hour. I don't like the monotony while actually doing exercise. I just can't stand anything about it, and it makes my skin crawl, so I eventually go back to avoiding it entirely. The good feelings I get from being in shape are incredibly overwhelmed by my hate of doing the exercise in the first place.

During all of these attempts, and for my entire adult life, my basic diet and caloric intake has remained just about exactly the same (a little high in proteins and a little low in fruits/vegetables, but nothing extreme and basically well-balanced, and in line with recommended allowances and food groupings).

So, I can "easily" lose weight while eating normally and drinking tons of diet soda, but also exercising. I can eat normally and drink diet soda and "maintain my weight" without exercising at all, but at almost exactly 20 lbs over the recommended weight for my height and body type.

I am afraid that if I were to quit drinking diet soda, I'd actually start replacing it with real sweets of some kind, and could actually gain even more weight. That would seem to be the likely reaction to quitting diet soda, for me. It doesn't seem to make me gain weight beyond my norm, and it doesn't make losing weight any more challenging on those rare occasions when I try.

I'm 50 and feel great, and am comfortable carrying the 20 extra pounds. The older I get, the more comfortable with it I seem to be - to no one's surprise, I'm sure.

I am well aware that I would probably live longer if I regularly exercised and/or quit drinking diet soda (I guess). I'm just not sure I would want to extend a life that involved regular exercise or giving up my diet soda. If I can make it to, say, 75 without having to exercise any more at all, that will be good enough for me and I'll consider anything else I get gravy. My dad lived to 85 with no exercise ever, and while being abnormally flabby for his last 45 years (probably 40 lbs overweight with basically no real muscle to speak of).

He didn't drink any soda though, diet or otherwise...

11/03/2009 9:00 AM  

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