Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ditch the Diet Coke

Why do so many people love diet Coke? Or diet drinks in general?

"Drinking diet Coke is healthier than drinking regular Coke"

"I don't like regular soda because it tastes too sweet"

I started drinking Diet Coke 3 years ago.  I lived with 3 girls at the time.  All of them constantly nagged about how I would eat unhealthy foods and how I would always drink regular Coke instead of diet sodas like they did.  Being around the 3 girls constantly watching their weight, I was convinced that Diet Coke and other diet sodas were the way to go.  They even convinced me to add Splenda or Sweet'N Low to my coffee instead of regular sugar.   I like to keep fit, eat healthy, and exercise regularly.

Artificial sweeteners would only enhance my healthy routine, right?  

I think there's a certain amount of glamor associated with diet drinks and food.  It's a way that we can drink (or eat) something that we know should be bad for us (such as soda) without feeling guilty about it.  Look around you: people are drinking diet Coke like it's water.  It's become cool to drink diet Coke.

Then I started hearing and reading more about artificial sweeteners.  There's a lot of controversy about the harmful effects of aspartame, the artificial sweetener found in Diet Coke.  Some of these controversies go as far as to say aspartame has been associated with conditions such as: multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, methanol toxicity, blindness, spasms, shooting pains, seizures, headaches, depression, anxiety, memory loss, birth defects and death.  Other effects include mood changes, skin reactions, cancer, hair loss and lower bone density.  Not all of these claims have been proven absolutely true.

While people often choose “diet” or “light” products containing artificial sweeteners to lose weight, research studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain:

  • Those who drink diet sodas experience higher levels of weight gain, especially around the belly
  • They experience 70% increase in waist line compared to individuals who did not drink diet soda (over a span of 9.5 years)
  • For the frequent drinkers, they experience 500% (yes 500%) increase in waist line.  Frequent being those who consumed 2 or more diet sodas a day
  • Aspartame may partially contribute to Type 2 diabetes
  • In addition, consensus from interventional studies suggests that artificial sweeteners do not help reduce weight when switching from regular soda to diet soda
  • As waist size grows, other health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions may occur
Experiments generally have found that sweet taste, whether delivered by sugar or artificial sweeteners, enhances human appetite.  Aspartame is around 200 times sweeter than sugar - it's consumption has been found to actually increase hunger in individuals compared to those that consume sugar based soda or water.

Evidence suggests that these artificial sweeteners do not reward the food pathway of the brain like natural sugar.  This inconsistent coupling between sweet taste and lack of calories can lead to compensatory overeating.  The brain expects sweet and fatty foods to come with a lot of calories.  Diet Coke fails to deliver, and when the brain does not feel rewarded completely, it doesn't feel satisfied, which further leads to seeking more food to satisfy this craving.  

Artificial sweeteners like the ones found in your diet Coke, encourages sugar craving and dependence.   The artificially sweet taste can block your body's ability to burn fat.   Animal studies go on to suggest that artificial sweeteners may trigger the body to start storing more calories from other sources as fat.  The calories found in natural sweeteners do a much better job keeping your consumption at a normal pace.

2 months ago, I quit artificial sweeteners.  
What happened to me?  Did I gain 20 pounds and get fat?  Did my healthy eating habits or workout routines get reduced in efficiency?  Did I get artificial sweetener withdrawal symptoms?  No.  I feel great.  I haven't gotten fat.  In fact, I feel better than ever, and more healthy than before.  I feel like my digestion is smoother than it's ever been.  Coffee tastes better with real sugar.  Regular Coke tastes so much more delicious and natural.  People get shocked when I'm the one ordering regular Coke instead of diet.  (This being said, I rarely drink soda at all now)

"But regular Coke tastes TOO sweet.  I prefer the less sweet taste of Diet Coke." 

BULLSHIT.  If your Coke is too sweet, add more ice, or even some water.  People, drinking diet soda will not make you lose weight or help maintain your weight.  Proper nutrition, healthy eating, and routine efficient exercise is the answer.

Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.  Doesn't that regular Coke look refreshing?  

Now I'm not saying that you should drink regular Coke every day with every meal.  If you're choosing to drink any soda, you're choosing to fill your body with useless fluid instead of something with actual health benefits - like water, tea or naturaljuice.  

Next time you absolutely have to have a soda, stop kidding yourself, and stop drinking the diet version. Ditching the diet Coke will make you healthier, physically and financially.  

update 3.4.12:  Interesting Yahoo health article about the addictive nature of diet sodas and the potential harm it may cause.


  1. The sugar you're talking about is actually sludgy High-fructose corn syrup. If you want Real sugar you will only find it in Coca Cola that is bottled in Mexico or "Mexican Coke" It can be found at any Burrito truck or mexican market. You can even find it at Costco. Try it, you won't be disappointed.

  2. Pepsi with real sugar is available at Ralphs!


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