The Mounting Evidence Against Diet Sodas

Labrina VanCliff


Photographed by Consumer Report

There is a unified gasp amongst diet soda drinkers as there is a big prevailing myth that diet soda is considered to be unhealthy. Many people believe that diet soda is healthy, as it is a low-calorie alternative to sugary drinks. However mounting evidence suggests that diet sodas may cause health defects rather than providing the benefits some people turn to them for, like weight loss. A number of studies suggest that drinking diet soda can cause possible health risks in addition to the low-calories these beverages provide.

To study this, researchers at JAMA Internal Medicine followed 450,000 Europeans around for 16 years, tracking the consumption of soft-drinks from those who favor and frown upon sugary beverages. The experiment found that 26 percent of artificially sweetened soft drink consumers are more likely to develop high risk health issues, as the consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with deaths from circulatory diseases, and sugar-sweetened soft drinks were associated with deaths from digestive diseases. The researchers hypothesized that the consumption of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks were positively associated with all-causes of deaths. Additionally, they found that the study supports public health campaigns aim at limiting the consumption of soft drinks.

Another study by Matthew P. Pase, Ph.D., researcher in neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine, tested individuals by asking them about their medical history and daily beverage consumption. Unsurprisingly, the study concluded that people who drank two or more glasses of artificially sweetened beverages a day are eight percent more likely to die young compared to those who consumed less than one glass a month because of the excessive amount of sweetener in the beverages. According to Dr. Pase, “ the excess amounts of sugar in artificially sweetened beverages is causing health effects which is contributing to the problems of obesity, diabetes, and other conditions in society.”


Photographed by Justin Sullivan

According to researcher Vasanti S. Malik from theHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health,“diet soda drinkers eat a lot of bacon because there are people who rationalize their unhealthy lifestyle by saying, ‘Now that I’ve had a diet soda, I can have those French fries.” His study found that the links between artificial sweeteners and increased mortality in women are conclusive.

Lastly, three large studies published between 2007 and 2009 have also found that people who drink diet sodas regularly were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes with a 30 to 55 percent risk of metabolic syndrome than individuals who don’t drink soda. Researchers have linked daily diet soda consumption to about 45 percent higher health risk after studying an average of 2,600 people.

Given the many studies that support the public health campaigns which aim to limit the consumption of soft drinks, many doctors and researchers believe that “the best thing to do is to avoid regular and diet sodas altogether,” according to Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports’ medical director. “They offer little nutritional benefit, and in some cases, diet sodas can cause headaches” according to Avitzur.


Photographed by The Center for Disease Control

Shortly after the artificial sweeteners came onto the market in the late 1990s, the biggest complaint to the Food and Drug Administration about artificial sweeteners was that the sweetener was causing headaches. A scientific study from The Clinical Journal of Pain in 2009 suggest that  diet sodas in general cause headaches, as the large amounts of the sweetener can trigger or make headaches worse in people who are already susceptible to migraines.

Ultimately, an occasional beverage with sugar or artificial sweeteners will not create any health risk. However drinking more than five diet sodas daily can cause an individual to experience severe health issues including death. People who love sugary drinks should reconsider replacing those beverages with plain or sparkling water with a splash of fruit. Beverages like tea, water, and unsweetened coffee are better for the individual.





Categories: Health, science

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