Dying for Diet Sodas: Beverage Options Laden With Questionable Ingredients


Kate Breeden

Dubious Diet Choice? The questionable ingredients in diet sodas might make them the decidedly unhealthy option.

We all know and love the two diet soda vending machines on the third floor. From Cherry Sprite Zero to Minute Maid Sparkling Lemonade, these machines seemingly have it all. Their low-calorie labels and punchy flavors are popular with our student body, especially those who prefer to try and ingest the “healthier” or “more nutritious” option. Despite their popularity with health-conscientious North Atlanta students, the so-called healthy angle is not as straight-shooting as it’s made out to be.

Since their inception, diet sodas have been made out to be a healthier alternative to soda. Often, they come in thinner, sleeker bottles, the product reflecting the demographic its marketed to. However, diet sodas aren’t the least bit healthier than their non-diet counterpart. It can be argued that they’re far worse.

Admittedly, diet sodas are less calorically dense than regular sodas. One 12-ounce can of Coke goes for 139 calories (approximately 7 percent of the total calories we need per day — which doesn’t seem like a lot until you down three cans at your desk), while one 12-ounce can of diet coke goes for 0 calories. By that logic, regular soda is almost always at least 100 times the amount of calories as a diet soda. In a society entirely driven by calories rather than actual nutritional value — a fundamental flaw regarding the way we live, but that’s an entire other article — it’s expected to fall into the diet soda trend.

And really, perhaps, diet soda is a responsible choice, but only for a certain demographic of people. Because diet soda is so less calorically dense than other soda, for sugar addicts suffering obesity, thyroid gland issues, or extreme cravings, diet soda is a good short-term fix for other sodas. Countless studies have shown that pre-existing soda addicts have successfully put off weight with substituting diet soda for regular soda (although if the weight loss stayed off is unclear), and overall results indicate a positive correlation between weight loss and diet soda. However, this is only a small subset of the American population. For people within the average BMI, diet soda isn’t recommended from a nutrition standpoint.

However, ironically enough, diet soda is actually proven to contribute to weight gain. Artificial sweeteners amp up craving for sugar, because the body knows its not the real deal and it seeks out the real thing more fervently, as well as even more fatty foods.

The six artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas, according to PBS food journalist, just recently were passed by the Food-Drug Administration. These artificial sweeteners are all very common. Saccharin is Sweet-n’-Low, sucralose is Splenda. Although these sweeteners are safe — and the safety standards of the FDA have been proven to be shammy as there is pus and blood in every bottle of cow milk — this does not mean they are a healthier substitute for regular sugar.

Regular, good ol’ sugar is made of a combination of fructose and glucose. Sugar in moderation is perfectly fine, as the body needs glucose to survive. Although our frenzied society is naturally anti-sugar, eating sugar, even processed, is natural and expected in the human diet. Too much sugar, however, and the body falls ill to disease and weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, are made with a sugar base, but chlorine atoms are used instead of glucose, which contain caloric value. Chlorine, often found in powerful cleaning products and swimming pools, isn’t something the body naturally craves or needs. Because almost all drinking water contains some form of chlorine, in order to clear out pathogens and mold, alongside sweeteners and multiple other food products, the average person is ingesting 300-600 times the amount of chlorine that is safe. Chlorine is linked to a multitude of cancers, reproductive issues, heart attacks, and immune system problems.

Most shockingly, a study was done by French scientists that revealed women who drink diet soda consistently have more than double the risk of developing type-2 diabetes than women who consistently drink regular soda. Chlorine, in diet soda, also messes with gut bacteria, which allows the body to fall to sickness more easily. Diet soda also has more acid in it, which strips enamel off of teeth and upsets the pH balance of the stomach.

All in all, regular soda is a minor upset to your daily diet, but diet soda is a true short and long term risk to your health. Stick with the regular cokes and drop the diet — your body and taste buds will thank you for it.