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Health Risks of Diet Sodas

By Pamela Gentry ; Updated May 12, 2017

A popular choice among those wanting to lose weight, diet soda may be viewed by some as a healthier choice than drinking sugared sodas. Some may believe that drinking fewer calories will promote a slimmer waistline. However, it appears that drinking diet soda may present unnecessary health risks, including the risk of heart problems, diabetes, obesity and kidney disorders.

The Heart

According to the MSNBC article “Zero calories, same great taste (and heart risks),” drinking one or more diet soda per day doubles your risk of heart attack and stroke.

According to Dr. Ramachandran Vasan of the Boston University School of Medicine, one diet soda a day leads to a 50 percent higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that leads to health problems such as high blood pressure and most often, excessive fat around the waist area.


One might assume that the lack of calories in diet soda may be helpful in losing weight. However, research suggests that drinking diet soda could actually contribute to obesity. Dr. Vasan claims that drinking at least one diet soda per day increases your chance of obesity by 31 percent. Why is this so? One theory presented by Dr. Vasan is that drinking diet soda may actually increase your desire to eat sweets. In addition, some people may believe they can eat more calories during their day because they chose a diet soda over a regular one. However, Dr. Vasan tells MSNBC that the reason behind diet soda’s link to obesity is still not fully understood.

Diabetes and Aspartame

Dr. Vasan explains that metabolic syndrome also increases one’s chance of developing diabetes. Nevertheless, some people who are already diabetic may already drink diet soda because they cannot have sugared sodas. The trade off is that in avoiding sugar they are often ingesting aspartame instead. Although FDA-approved, the safety of aspartame is still in question, and some consumers report symptoms such as headaches and stomach conditions related to aspartame consumption.

The Kidneys

An 11 year study conducted in 1989 by Kidney Specialist Dr. Julie Lin of Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston and published in the “Nurses Health Study” showed that high sodium levels and artificial sweeteners found in diet soda are associated with a decline in proper kidney function. The food and drink of all participants were monitored to determine links between food and drink choices and overall health. Although other factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes may have been a contributing factor, it was determined that diet soda may inhibit overall kidney function and lead to kidney scarring over time.

Phenylalanine Warning

Found naturally in protein-rich foods, phenylalanine is a chemical also found in diet soda. The FDA requires makers of diet soda containing phenylalanine to post a warning on their product. However, according to Dr. Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic, most people should not be concerned with a moderate intake of phenylalanine. She adds that the warning is intended for people who have phenokytnuria, or PKU, which means their body is unable to process phenylalanine. Should an individual have this condition and not realize it, drinking diet soda could be very risky for their health.

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