For a considerable time, Diet Coke seemed like a good choice, providing the fizzy and sweet taste we all enjoy while avoiding excessive sugar intake.
However, the reality is more complex than that.
Certain evidence indicates that artificial sweeteners present in Diet Coke and other diet sodas might have their own negative impact on health. Nevertheless, ongoing research leaves us without a definitive answer regarding the extent of diet sodas’ potential harm.
To gain insight into the debate surrounding diet sodas, we consulted three nutritionists, all of whom shared a consistent personal and professional standpoint: It is advisable to avoid artificial sweeteners.
What are the negative aspects of consuming Diet Coke?
Previously, artificial sweeteners were considered neither beneficial nor harmful. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its stance in May of this year, advising that everyone, except those with pre-existing diabetes, should avoid using artificial sweeteners. This recommendation was based on a review of studies indicating that artificial sweeteners do not reduce body fat and may increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults.
The concerns surrounding Diet Coke and other diet sodas revolve around the artificial sweeteners used to provide a sweet taste without the associated calorie content. In the case of Diet Coke, the sweeteners used are Aspartame and Acesulfame K.
In addition to the adverse metabolic effects, there are concerns about the impact of artificial sweeteners on our gut microbiome. Barbara Olendzki, RD, MPH, LDN, an associate professor of population & quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School, points out, “The WHO recently issued an alert on sucralose, based on extensive research showing that artificial sweeteners alter metabolism, disrupt the beneficial microbiome, and can contribute to weight gain.”
Does Diet Coke contribute to weight gain?
There is also apprehension that consuming sodas, including Diet Coke, may increase cravings for sugary foods, potentially leading to weight gain if individuals choose high-sugar or calorie-dense options. Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, a nutritionist and owner of BodyDesigns, explains, “Artificial sweeteners are often marketed as aids for weight loss or weight management because they offer a sweet taste without adding calories. However, evidence regarding their effectiveness in promoting weight loss is mixed. While some studies suggest they may help reduce overall calorie intake, others indicate that their impact on weight loss may be insignificant or could even result in weight gain due to factors such as increased cravings or compensatory eating.”
Is Diet Coke worse for you than regular soda?
Regular soda contains high amounts of sugar, which can lead to various long-term health issues. Diet sodas, on the other hand, carry some risks, as mentioned earlier. Neither option is ideal.
According to Anne Murray, MS, RD, Owner of Nourished By Anne, “Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners that can irritate the gut. Regular soda is high in sugar from high fructose corn syrup, which can contribute to weight gain. If you only consume soda occasionally, I recommend choosing the regular version over the diet version.”
Murray also suggests alternatives to regular and diet soda. “The best substitutes for sodas include sparkling mineral waters, kombucha, or flavored sparkling waters like LaCroix. You can add your own fruit to create an infused flavor. One of my favorite summer combinations is strawberry, lemon, and fresh basil!”