Diet Coke Bad For Weight Loss

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Have you ever heard that drinking diet coke is bad for your weight loss goals? The idea is that the artificial sweeteners create a false sense of sweetness inherent in the brain which, in turn, causes you to crave sweets and snacks. This may be true — although there are many other reasons why you might gain weight. Regardless of whether or not you buy into this argument, science certainly suggests that drinking diet coke can have potentially unhealthy effects on your body over time.

What is Diet Coke?

Diet Coke is a low-calorie and sugar-free cold beverage alternative to regular Coca-Cola (coke). Unlike regular coke which contains table sugar, diet coke contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame and cyclamates to sweeten them.

Is Diet Coke Bad for You?

Drinking once or two glasses of diet coke isn’t likely to hurt you. Since diet coke is sugar-free, we could assume that it could aid in weight loss but studies are mixed. The effects of diet coke on weight loss are conflicting.

Studies show that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and cyclamates are associated with increased risk of obesity and metabolic conditions and may increase appetite, however, this is only likely to result from very large intakes of such artificial sweeteners, close to 6 cans of diet coke a day.

Diet Soda Works for Weight Loss

Whether you’re shedding extra pounds for a photo shoot, an upcoming vacation, or just because, when there’s a will to lose weight, people will find a way.

One popular strategy: swapping sugary soft drinks for zero-calorie diet soda.  

While the science behind whether diet soda can help you shed pounds has been debatable, new research from the University of Colorado and Temple University found that people drinking diet soda lost an average of 13 pounds in 12 weeks—4 more pounds than those who drank just water. Before you go to Costco and get a 12-pack of diet pop, take a look at exactly how the study participants lost the weight.

The research included approximately 300 men and women who already drank at least three diet sodas a day. Participants were divided into two groups: one that drank 24 ounces of a non-nutritive sweetened beverage (NNS) daily without a restriction on water, and another that drank 24 ounces of water daily, but no diet soda. The participants attended 12 weekly group meetings led by registered dieticians or clinical psychologists to help them with weight loss. By the end of the 12–week study, participants had increased their level of physical activity from 4 to 5-6 hours per week, on average.

After 12 weeks, the diet soda gulpers lost an average of 13 pounds compared to an average of 9 pounds for the H20 drinkers. The diet fizz group also felt less hungry, while hunger in the water group slightly increased. Lastly, reductions in LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol were significantly greater in the diet soda group than in the water group.  So, why exactly did diet soda drinkers lose weight?

“It probably has more to do with satisfying a sweet tooth than any particular mechanism for weight loss that a diet soda offers,” says Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. and author of The New Atkins Made Easy. “Further studies will be needed to ascertain the mechanism(s) that may be responsible for the weight loss advantage.”

While diet soda may contribute to weight loss efforts, it won’t hydrate you the same way that water does, and hydration is essential for maximum athletic performance.

“My personal opinion is that 24 ounces a day is a bit excessive,” says Heimowitz. “I usually recommend limiting to one diet soda daily, and on occasion two daily, in order to encourage the consumption of other things to hydrate with, like water and unsweetened green tea. Longer term studies are needed to determine health impact of 24 ounces of NNS daily.”  

 Reasons You Should Never Drink Diet Soda

Free of calories but full of negative health effects—it’s time to ditch your diet soda habit for good.

You’re probably well aware that a 140-calorie can of soda isn’t exactly a health elixir. But with so many new diet soda flavors emerging that might catch your eye in the grocery store and even a 104-year-old woman who claims sipping a daily Diet Coke is one key to her fountain of youth, perhaps you’ve started drinking lower-calorie soda instead.

You’re not doing yourself many—if any—favors, experts say.

“No one needs to have a soda; regular or diet. Some think diet soda is a better choice, because ‘at least it doesn’t have calories,’ but it contains chemicals that spark the fuse that sets chronic diseases aflame,” says Naomi Whittel, a certified nutritional consultant and author of Glow15: A Science-Backed Plan to Lose Weight, Revitalize Your Skin, and Invigorate Your Life.

If you’re on the fence about kicking your diet soda habit, keep reading for 15 science-backed reasons that will convince you to ditch diet—for good.

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Diet Soda Is Addictive

No wonder it’s hard to stop at just one. It might be the fizz. It might be the taste. It might be something on the ingredient list. “The artificial sweeteners can cause a physical addiction and for some much more than others,” Whittel says. “Caffeine might be a piece of that for some, but the sweet taste definitely keeps us coming back for more.”

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It Offers Zero Health Benefits

Even though you slash 140 calories per can or 230 calories per 20-ounce bottle doing diet instead of regular, diet soda has no redeeming wellness qualities (unlike these 37 best drinks for weight loss).

“I also think about what the soda is replacing, be that water, tea, or even coffee,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table. “A glass of water or sparkling water comes without artificial sweeteners, sodium, coloring, and flavoring. It’s a much smarter, more hydrating option.”

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Sweet Begets Sweet

That Diet Dew could easily lead to double dessert. While the artificial sweeteners approved for use in soda have been deemed “generally recognized as safe” for adults by the U.S. Food and Drug administration, “artificially-sweetened diet soda is way sweeter than regular sugar,” says Jenna A. Werner, RD, creator of Happy Strong Healthy. “When your body gets that much sweetness all at once, it may begin to crave even more sweet—which leads to consuming more and more sodas or unhealthy foods.”

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It May Be Harmful For Your Gut

According to a recent mice study published in the journal Molecules, adding artificial sweeteners to your menu might impact the diversity and amount of good bacteria in your stomach.

“Artificial sweeteners can alter or kill beneficial bacteria in the gut,” Whittel says. “We know that we need a healthy microbiome, not just for digestion, but for brain health, metabolism, weight management, the immune system; and research is showing connections with just about every organ and system in the body.”

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Each Cup Makes You Crave More Carbs

When sweet taste comes without the expected calories alongside, your brain and body are left guessing. Plus, your sweet tooth gets accustomed to sweet things the more and more you down soda, so instead of thinking an apple is sweet, you’ll need sugar-coated apple-flavored fruit snacks to feel satisfied.

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It Might Trick You Into Eating More Calories

It’s tough to prove cause and effect, but here’s a staggering stat about the breakdown of people who drink diet soda from the American Journal of Public Health: 22 percent of obese adults are diet soda drinkers.

Whether you eat more calories because you give yourself permission to (aka the double cheeseburger + fries + diet soda effect) or because you’re craving those extra sweets, the calorie deficit from skipping the real sugar might not be doing you as many favors as you initially think.

“The body interprets that sweetness as sugar coming in, and blood sugar levels are affected due to a release of insulin,” Whittel says, which many times results in a snack attack.

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Diet Soda Can Throw Your Metabolism Out Of Whack

The weight difference between diet soda drinkers vs. abstainers may be more complex than eating more. “The chemicals that are used to sweeten diet soda are not natural substances to the body and aren’t put to good use. Once inside the body, they can cause inflammation and place pressure on the body’s detoxification system. As a result, they may increase the risk of metabolic disorders such as metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes,” Whittel says.

Is Diet Coke Really That Bad for You? Lone Tree, CO

If it says “diet,” doesn’t that mean it’s the healthier option? Though diet soda may sound more appealing than its regular counterpart because it contains zero calories and zero sugar, you’d be surprised to know the real science behind it. In our latest free webinar, Nurse Practitioner Becky Barkey debunks myths about the artificial sweeteners in Diet Coke and other diet soft drinks and explains how they can actually be harmful to your overall health.

Diet Coke: Good, bad or neutral?

Marketing efforts have tried to convince the public that zero sugar-added foods and beverages are the healthier option — but it’s not that simple. Artificial sweeteners may sound like a healthier alternative to sugar, but multiple large cohort studies have found positive correlations between artificial sweetener use and negative health issues such as weight gain.

Let’s break down the ingredients: Carbonated water and caramel color

Diet Coke’s main ingredient is carbonated water. Well, it’s water, so that’s a good sign. The carbonation in these drinks is produced by infusing water with carbon dioxide gas under pressure to produce those bubbles many of us enjoy. When consumed by itself, there is no evidence to suggest carbonated water is bad for you. Now, let’s move on to more harmful ingredients, starting with caramel color. This artificial food dye, found in processed foods, is what gives Diet Coke its color, but it can also promote hyperactivity in children and has been known to cause allergic reactions. Though not the top offender, caramel color is still artificial, which means the body can identify it as a toxic substance.

Aspartame and phosphoric acid

The ingredient in Diet Coke you’ve probably heard the most about is the artificial sweetener aspartame. Artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet® and Equal® have been associated with an increased risk of cancer and weight gain, bad gut and dental health and other health issues. Did you know artificial sweeteners are 200-13,000 times sweeter than sugar? Here’s how they work: Their molecules are similar enough to sugar molecules to fit on the sweetness receptor but are too different from sugar molecules for the body to break them down into calories. They trick the brain, causing you to crave more sugar.

Processed foods also contain preservatives which are traditionally added to minimize the risk of spoilage and bacterial overgrowth. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, a preservative in Diet Coke, phosphoric acid, may be bad for your bones. A study found that increased phosphorus and caffeine in diet cola can interfere with normal calcium absorption, thereby increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fracture.

Potassium benzoate and natural flavors

Potassium benzoate is a preservative used to protect taste and is only found in diet sodas, not regular sodas. It can cause damage to DNA in the mitochondria and has been linked to hives, asthma and other allergic conditions. If you’re looking to decrease overall inflammation to your body, you’ll want to stay away from Diet Coke as potassium benzoate can cause irritation and inflammation to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes in your gut. To enhance its flavor, Diet Coke uses natural flavors which are extracted from plants and animals. Now, don’t let the word “natural” fool you, the FDA has not officially defined this term, meaning it can be used to describe almost any type of food.

Citric acid, caffeine and phenylalanine

Now to the final three ingredients in Diet Coke: citric acid, caffeine and phenylalanine. Citric acid is typically used in fruit flavored drinks to enhance flavor, whereas phosphoric acid is typically used in cola — Diet Coke uses both. Now, a lot of people drink Diet Coke for the caffeine to stay awake and alert. It’s important to note, caffeine is best consumed in moderation, and vitamin supplements may be a healthier alternative for a natural boost of energy. The final ingredient is phenylalanine which comes with a warning on every Diet Coke product. This is because people who have the genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) can have serious health problems if they consume this amino acid.

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