Article Originally Published on Renegade Pharmacist Here
After the recent incredible popularity of the above infographic showing what may happen to you after one hour of drinking a can of regular coke, I have been requested to do a similar one about diet coke from thousands of new supporters and even the media.
Diet Coke was the second best selling soft drink in the US last year but sales have actually dropped since more people have become aware of it’s apparent health risks, according to new figures by trade publication Beverage Digest.
A Coca Cola spokesman gave this statement as their official response to my previous article that made the headlines.
“People have enjoyed drinking a Coca-Cola for more than 129 years. Like all soft drinks, it is perfectly safe to drink and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle. We provide a choice of colas to meet the needs of different consumers, including options that are lower sugar, sugar free and caffeine free.”
But is this really true?
The spokesperson did not state how many cans per day is considered safe to drink. They also hint that the lower sugar, sugar free and caffeine free varieties are considered safer.
I’d like to start this article by stating that from my experience as a community pharmacist helping people to get off medications for metabolic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, I found if people drink diet sodas they still get the same problems as people who drink normal soda.
The research I found from other well respected scientists back up my claims up too and you will discover this in great detail in the new infographic and from this article.
I find it hard to believe the coke marketing sleep at night when they created the tagline: “Regret Nothing: no sugar, no calories”
Especially when these facts exist about diet sodas from various scientific sources:
Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain.” Susan E. Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioural neuroscientist.
Daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36% greater relative risk of incident metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater relative risk of incident type 2 diabetes compared with non consumption in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)
Coca Cola actually used cocaine in all their drinks before it was banned. This made the drink infectiously addictive. So in order to maintain its addictiveness they had to create the perfect recipe to do this without cocaine.
The original recipe was actually formulated by a fellow pharmacist Joseph Pemberton, who interestingly was a serious opium addict and also died as one, fatefully leaving behind the legacy of one the world’s most addictive drinks.
The new recipe for diet coke is no different from normal coke in its ability to make you hooked like a drug and with some serious side effects as you will soon discover.
What Happens 1Hr After Drinking Diet Coke, Coke Zero & Any Other Similar Diet Soda
First 10 Minutes – Tricks Your Taste Buds And Attacks Your Teeth
The phosphoric acid attacks the enamel in your teeth, while the artificial sweeteners like aspartame hit your system. Aspartame may trigger taste receptors and trick your body into thinking it has just processed sugar.
Research, including studies from Swithers and colleagues, shows that frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the opposite effect by confusing the body’s natural ability to manage calories based on tasting something sweet.
According to a report published in the March / April edition of General Dentistry, phosphoric acid in soda causes tooth enamel erosion, even with minimal exposure.
20 Minutes – May Switch On Fat Storage Mode
Like regular Coke this can trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode.
Artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols (another type of low-calorie sweetener) present in diet colas can all interfere negatively with natural gut bacteria that is part of your immune and digestive system, according to Amanda Payne of Switzerland’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health
Data from a number of studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study also reported greater risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is related to diabetes and cardiovascular problems, for consumers of artificially sweetened beverages. Some data indicated that those who consumed artificially sweetened beverages had double the risk of metabolic syndrome compared to non-consumers.
40 Minutes – Can Cause Addiction
The potentially deadly combination of caffeine and aspartame creates a short addictive high similar in the way cocaine works. Excitotoxins are released which may exhaust your brain by overstimulating it’s neuroreceptors, especially if consumed on a regular basis.
Excitotoxins are shown to freely penetrate certain brain regions and rapidly destroy neurons by hyperactivating the NMDA subtype of Glu receptor in studies.
Cravings for more coke are explained by the release of two neurotransmitters in the brain, dopamine and glutamate.
Caffeine and aspartame increases dopamine levels as shown in various studies.
Aspartic acid taken in its free form (unbound to proteins), significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate.
Researchers say glutamate is more essential to addiction than dopamine. Source: Phenotype Offers New Perception on Cocaine The Scientist Date: 21 Jan 2002
60 Minutes – Depletes Nutrients, Makes You Hungry & Thirsty For More
Unlike the small amount of satisfaction you get from regular coke your body may still crave sweets. This makes you likely to reach for another soda, or worse, some other junk food you consider to be safe and the cycle continues.
A can of diet coke provides no nourishment and would replace a more nutritious drink you could have drunk while potentially depleting your body of essential minerals
It will never quench your thirst as it dehydrates rather than hydrates your body. A lack of vital water can lead to brain fog, poor concentration, fatigue and feeling irritable.
“Some of the connection to metabolic disease could be related to how people behave by saying to themselves, ‘I’m having a diet soda, so this cheeseburger is OK.’ says Swithers
Marisa Peer rated by Men’s Health as Britain’s Best Therapist, a behavioural psychologist and a world renowned expert in eating disorders confirms this, “It is very common to see clients who are overweight who drink diet coke who then eat a plate of chips or reach for the cake. This is because drinking a ‘diet drink’ like diet coke makes them feel it is now ok to eat whatever they want.’
The Big Problem With ‘Zero’ Calories
Marisa has over 20+ years as a weight loss therapist with her method proven to be the only one to work by the famous UK TV series Super Size Super Skinny that tested every method available and claimed only hers to work.
She has this to say about diet sodas and weight gain:
‘Artificial sweeteners are associated with a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin. Leptin is the hormone that inhibits hunger so diet drinks like diet coke actually make you hungry and less satisfied with normal amounts of food, and finally when you eat or drink a lot of chemicals that your body simply cannot break down, your body makes more and more internal fat to wrap the chemicals in keeping those harmful chemicals away from your vital organs. As diet coke has no calories and no recognised ingredients we know it is a cocktail of chemicals that encourage your body to gain and store weight especially on your legs and bottom away from your organs. diet drinks are not good for your body your health or even as it turns out for dieting.’
Joan Collins the famous British actress famed for her ageless beauty, once said that she doesn’t drink diet soda “because you never see skinny people drinking it!”
More Hidden Dangers
A can of diet cola contains 44-62mg of phosphoric acid, more than in many other soft drinks and researchers at Tufts University in Boston showed that women who regularly drank three or more cans a day had four per cent lower bone mineral density in their hips compared to those who preferred other soft drinks.
Phosphoric acid has also been linked to lower bone density in some studies, including a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In experiments at Harvard University, it was found to make skin and muscles wither and to damage the heart and kidneys over time.
Phosphoric acid has been associated with urinary changes that promote kidney stones and drinking 2 or more colas per day is associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease caused by a combination of phosphoric acid, caffeine and other additives.
Chronic consumption of aspartame can lead to potentially harmful side effects to your body, and the long term effects in humans are still not certain, although recent studies in animals prove its damaging effects, especially to the brain.
Various studies have shown:
About fifty per cent of aspartame is made up by phenylalanine, which could cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a precursor of catecholamine in the brain, as well as leading to phenylketonuria.
Forty per cent of aspartame is composed of aspartic acid, an excitotoxin that contributes to free radical damage in the brain.
Methanol which forms 10% of the by-products of aspartame is a toxic compound converted in the liver to formaldehyde that is neurotoxic and carcinogenic.
Luke Miller from Truth Theory has a little bit of a different spin on this and share the ingredients which are inside your diet coke can. It’s not pretty! You can read more about that here
Would all diet sodas have the same effect? Pepsi for instance? Or is this information relevant to just diet coke?
Yes all diet beverages with similar ingredients to Diet Coke will have the same or similar effects.
In your opinion, are diet drinks (beverages which contain aspartame) more harmful than sugar laden drinks/food?
Yes they are found in several studies to be actually worse:
According to Mark Hyman MD , a practicing family physician, an nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author who has a special interest in sugar and its health risks:
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered some alarming facts:
1. Diet fizzy drinks increased the risk of diabetes more than regular fizzy drinks sweetened with sugar.
2. Women who drank one 12oz diet fizzy drink had a 33% increased risk of type 2 diabetes and women who drank one 20oz soda had a 66% increase in risk.
3. Women who drank diet fizzy drinks drank twice as much as those who drank regular fizzy drinks sweetened with sugar, because artificial sweeteners can be more addictive and are up to a 1000 times sweeter than regular sugar.
4. The average diet fizzy drink consumer drinks 3 diet drinks a day.
In this study they scientifically controlled for body weight and they found that the artificial sweeteners still increased diabetes independent of body weight!
The Correlation vs Causation Debate
There is endless debate about the validity of claims made based on correlation and whether correlation really means causation.
The truth is that the only way to really prove causation (i.e A specifically causes B to happen, rather than if you increase A it has been shown that B increases) is through a double blind randomised placebo controlled trial.
The issue is that in order to do something like this it would cost a lot of money and it is out of reach of most people except for major corporations or extremely wealthy private individuals.
You also have an ethical issue whether you want to subject people in trials to substances that have an overwhelming amount of evidence in the form of correlation that they could do harm.
This video really explains it well:
With regards to diet sodas there is evidence on both sides based on correlation that can prove they are harmless, and can also prove it is toxic and should be avoided completely.
I know that for myself I feel amazing, rather than ‘ok’ or ‘fine’ health wise. I am into peak performance and diet soda’s definitely do not provide the foundations for that.
The Choice Is Yours…
Do you really want to be a guinea pig on trial just so you can still enjoy your favorite drink, or do you think it makes sense to find more natural and safer alternatives, and see diet soda as a treat to be had once in a while?
Do you really want to be hooked on a drink like diet coke anyway given all the apparent risks from a variety of sources and anecdotal evidence from many experts?
Please do your own research, do not take my word as gospel. Look at all the evidence out there, so you can make a well informed decision.
Here are some of my recommendations for far healthier alternatives:
- Look for stevia (a natural sweetener) versions of soft drinks if you really must drink a soft drink.
- Drink plain mineral water with fresh lime or lemon juice or both with a dash of organic honey, if you prefer a sweeter taste, as a very healthy and hydrating drink.
- Drink green tea if you want the effects of caffeine without the jitters. L-theanine in green tea is the antidote to caffeine’s negative effects on the nervous system and it also boosts ‘alpha waves in your brain’
- Drink Kombucha or Kefir tea. They are both naturally fizzy and Kefir tea in particular can provide a dose of probiotics for promoting better digestion and health of your gut.
- Learn to make or buy nutritious smoothies made out of green vegetables like spinach, low sugar fruits like blueberries and tasty ingredients like coconut butter that are full of essential nutrients and health promoting fatty acids.
Bottom line: Moderation is key. Even just one can a day can put you at higher risk of metabolic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
View any heavily processed drinks like diet sodas as a treat to be consumed once in a while and you should be ok.
To your health,
Soda is perhaps THE most acid-forming, inflammatory, oxidising, clogging food you can consume, and DIET soda is perhaps even worse. The level of chemicals inside these beverages, along with the colourings, flavourings, preservatives and artificial sweeteners makes them a known carcinogen, endocrine disruptor and direct cause of insulin resistance and more.
You cannot be healthy and drink soda, diet or otherwise. There is literally no benefit to drinking the diet version of a soft drink. You are eliminating one problem (the sugar/HFCS) for another, which arguably has worse, more negative consequences.
So what to drink instead? If you’re a regular drinker of soft drinks you’re most likely looking for flavour and energy. Even though it’s a false/placebo energy that the sugar would give you, your brain is still looking to soda as a solution. The sugar would give you nothing more than a mini jolt of mental stimulation (from the sugar or aspartame exciting brain cells to death (known as excitoxicity) and the dehydrating effect of drinking soda would leave you feeling more fatigued half an hour later.
I recommend taking a different course of action. Seek energy from foods and flavour from drinks.
Of course, being properly hydrated is one of the most energising things you can do, but seek flavour first and foremost from beverages.
Ideas can be found in these guides:
And for more energy:
You’ve simply got to give up the soda, and diet soda in particular. Make a plan and make it happen. Don’t try to do it cold turkey, cut it down a day at a time, replace it, give yourself a goal and a reason to do it. Your waist, teeth, hormones, digestive system, liver, kidneys and more will thank you.
If you need motivation check out my two guides on sugar here:
Humphries P, Pretorius E, Naude H. Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain.Eur J Clin Nutri. 2008;62(4):451–462. [PubMed]
Source: Phenotype Offers New Perception on Cocaine The Scientist Date: 21 Jan 2002
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