DIET SODA AND WEIGHT LOSS
Diet soda definitely looks like a fantastic life hack for our health and weight loss goals, All the flavor and feel without the sugar and calories and consequent weight gain. But is it really that good and harmless or should we just avoid it altogether and just stick to plain old water?
Let's dive into the potential benefits and concerns of using diet soda and sugar-free drinks as a tool to improve our health and lose weight and what the research says about it.
THE BENEFITS IT MIGHT HAVE AND THE RESEARCH BEHIND THEM
There have been some studies that wanted to see if consuming diet soda and other sugar-free dietetic foods could lead to sweet food addiction and increased consumption of high caloric foods: However the results show that moderate consumption of products with non-caloric sweeteners can help satisfy sugar cravings and reduce the desire to consume sugary foods
There has also been concern that sweeteners can affect hormones, specifically insulin production since they can have a similar raising effect as sugar consumption and make it more difficult to lose weight. However, it has been shown that these spikes are short-lived and small and should not have an impact on the ability to lose weight.
And the last common health concern is that diet soda can disrupt the gut microbiome and affect the absorption of nutrients having negative implications on energy balance, appetite, digestion, weight loss, and even immune function. This would depend on the type of particular sweetener used in each drink, those that are able ot get to the colon being the ones that can possibly have an effect. But there’s still more research needed and evidence is not conclusive on this matter.
So there seem to be good benefits and not a lot of harm in consuming diet sodas instead of sugary drinks. However, as many things in life, the poison is in the dosage and there’s the harm of getting to addicted to it and not being able to stop or diminish consumption
WHAT MAKES SODA SO IRRESISTIBLE AND ADDICTIVE
“Food and beverage manufacturers scientifically engineer products, including diet soda, to appeal to the pleasure centers in your brain, belly, and mouth,” says Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., Precision Nutrition’s Director of Nutrition. “That drives you to consume more of it than you might otherwise.”
These manufactured factors that make you crave more soda are:
Sweetness: consumption of sweet foods, even if sugarless, causes liberation of neurochemicals in the brain that can lead to drug-like effects and lead to repeated consumption.
Carbonation: Yes the bubbles in your tongue hurt a little bit and that can create a pleasurable sensation in some people, it also allows the tongue and the whole mouth to be stimulated more by the beverage, feeling the flavors and quenching thirst more than just plain water.
Caffeine: albeit a smaller dose than a regular cup of coffee, it does give you a small caffeine buzz. If taken with dinner or close to bedtime this can disrupt sleeping and also lead to higher caloric ingestion the next day.
Flavor enhancers: engineered into the beverages to stimulate specific regions of the brain, get them used to it, and even expect the next dose.
SOME SPECIFIC HEALTH CONCERNS ON DIET SODA:
Some people have a sensitivity to aspartame, this is called phenylketonuria, and should avoid this kind of sweetener altogether. However, this is quite rare.
Any kind of soda can erode tooth enamel and have a negative effect on tooth decay and cavities. This can also be true for a lot of sports drinks, bottled teas, energy drinks, and many other bottled beverages.
Many components of diet soda can increase symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn: caffeine, carbonation, and high acidity.
In the 70s there was a concern that consumption of artificial sweeteners like saccharine could lead to cancer, as it was linked to bladder tumors in rats. However, research on humans shows no link, unless you consume 800 cans of soda every day. And in fact, there’s no current evidence that any of the FDA-approved sweeteners pose serious health risks.
So it looks like everything else in nutrition and health: moderation is key and should not pose serious harm. And as seen before can be a useful tool for weight loss goals and gradually reducing consumption of sugar.
SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE
If you make the choice of reducing carbonated drinks and particularly diet soda you don’t have to go all or nothing from day one.
There are a thousand steps from drinking only sugared soda and drinking nothing but water, and you can stop and play around with any of those:
drink one less glass of soda every day,
change one or two of those for the sugar-free option or for something like green tea or lemon water.
Remember there is no right or wrong way to eat or drink. No diet, food nor supplement works for everyone. So experiment and be very aware of the effects on yourself and choose the one that works best for you. Wholesome nutritious foods are the goal but it can be achieved with foods you actually enjoy and look forward to and if diet soda is a tool you can use to make that happen then use it to your advantage.