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Are Diet Drinks More Harmful Than Regular Sodas?

By Amanda Hermes ; Updated April 18, 2017

Since its invention, diet soda has been rumored to cause cancer, osteoporosis, migraines and a host of other health problems. But recent research shows that diet drinks aren’t much more harmful to your health than regular soda. In fact, cutting back on sugar is a smart move for many people. All sodas, however, present risk factors, so it’s best to choose something else to quench your thirst.

Metabolic Syndrome

Drinking any type of soda every day may increase your chance of developing metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of disorders, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar and obesity. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this connection exists. It could simply be that people who consume a lot of soda aren’t making many other healthy choices in their diets.

Diet Drinks and Weight Loss

Diet sodas are low in calories. Instead of containing large amounts of sugar like regular sodas, they are made with artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, aspartame or sucralose. Time Magazine reports that, ironically, consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners can actually make you gain weight, because it increases your desire for sweet foods and leads you to consume more calories overall. Researchers at the University of Texas found that people who drank diet soda were 41 percent more likely to be overweight.

Bone Health

There have been claims that diet sodas increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, but doctors at Duke University’s School of Medicine report that this is only partly true. Phosphoric acid, an ingredient in all colas, has been found to have a negative effect on bone matter and teeth. The body may attempt to neutralize the excess acid by taking calcium from the bones, but only those who drink more than five sodas a day are likely to be affected in this way.

Artificial Sweeteners

Drinking one or two diet sodas a day isn’t likely to be harmful to your health, and artificial sweeteners are safe for most people. In 2009, Time Magazine reported that numerous studies have found that artificial sweeteners don’t cause cancer or any other major health problems. However, aspartame, found in some diet colas, has been known to have adverse reactions in some people, as they have difficulty digesting it.

Better Choices

Whether you drink diet or regular, soda is not the most healthy choice for a beverage. Fruit juice, milk and just plain water are better for your body. If you do consume soda each day, though, try sticking to one or two servings. Keep in mind, though, that one serving is about eight ounces, but a large soda at most fast food restaurants contains 32 ounces.

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