Sodas: Sugared or Diet—Which is Worse?
Years ago, when manufacturers launched the first “diet” sodas, it appeared as if “zero-calorie” beverages would help stem the rising tide of overweight and obesity. After all, with no calories from sugar, logic suggested that these cans of overpriced water had to be better for people than “regular” sodas, which are, after all, little more than flavored sugar water.
Or so it seemed.
Flash forward to the early 21st century. Heart disease is the leading cause of death. Diabetes is at epidemic proportions. Roughly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry. Once rare inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases are on the rise…
So which is really worse: Diet, or regular? Or both?
Clearly, “diet” sodas are NOT good for the diet. Nor, of course, are sugared sodas good for much of anything. For starters, diet soft drinks not only don’t support weight loss, they may actually encourage weight gain. Artificial sweeteners paradoxically increase sugar cravings in the brain, making you more likely to over-consume later. Talk about counter-productive.
One study even concluded that people with the greatest consumption of diet soft drinks have a significantly higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. While the study did not prove causation, it adds to a growing body of evidence that these drinks are far from benign. And even farther from beneficial.
The best thing that can be said about sugared sodas is this: It could be worse. While most 12-ounce sodas provide about 140 empty sugar calories, some other popular drink options on the market today are even worse offenders. Packaged coffee drinks, for example, typically supply 200 calories. None of these choices are good for you. Drinking soda is linked to an increased risk of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In addition to empty calories (or artificial sweeteners) many sodas also contain artificial ingredients, such as dyes, which have been implicated in cancer. A common soda preservative, sodium benzoate, reacts with vitamin C to form benzene; a known carcinogen. Aspartame—a common artificial sweetener—can break down to form methanol, which can cause neurological damage. Consider this: Drinking just two cans of soda a day can increase your waistline by 70% within just ten years. Yikes!
And consider this: A new report in the American Journal of Public Health concluded, “Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence metabolic disease development through accelerated cell aging.”
So, basically, every time you down a soda, you’re speeding up the aging clock.
Do I really need to go on? Okay. Consider these chilling statistics. Soda consumption is linked to greater risks of the following conditions and diseases: heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer and the metabolic syndrome.
It’s enough to make you long for a drink of fresh, cool water.
Leung CW1, Laraia BA, et al. Soda and Cell Aging: Associations Between Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and Leukocyte Telomere Length in Healthy Adults From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.Am J Public Health. 2014 Oct 16:e1-e7. [Epub ahead of print]