Which Is Worse: Diet Soda or Regular Soda?

Same great taste. Fewer calories.

This is a pretty common promotion of your typical diet soda beverage, promising to offer the same appealing taste at a fraction (or in some cases, none) of the cost to your calorie count. But the more important thing to be aware of is whether or not you’re charging a great debt to your longterm health. So which is actually better, or for that matter, worse? Diet soda or regular soda?

According to researchers from Purdue University, diet soda drinkers and regular soda drinkers have the same risks of health issues. The reason for this is because the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas mainly work to suppress a person’s cravings they would typically fulfill with a traditional soda, tricking the body into thinking it’s getting the sugar it wants.

"You've messed up the whole system, so when you consume real sugar, your body doesn't know if it should try to process it because it's been tricked by the fake sugar so many times," says Susan Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences.

And since artificial sweeteners aren’t real food, our body gets tricked, not knowing how to process the fake sugar we’ve given it. Both blood sugar and blood pressure can’t be regulated properly as a result. Backers of artificial sweeteners argue that the five FDA approved artificial sweeteners — acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), neotame, saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low) and sucralose (Splenda) — can be aids in weight loss, though.

"Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today," the American Beverage Association said in a statement. "They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe.”

However, even with weight loss and weight management claims by the American Beverage Association, weight gain is not the only heightened risk to diet soda drinkers. According to the same report from Purdue University researchers, diet soda drinkers within a healthy weight range for their size and body type are still at an even higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

"We've gotten to a place where it is normal to drink diet soda because people have the false impression that it is healthier than indulging in a regular soda," Swithers said. "But research is now very clear that we need to also be mindful of how much fake sugar they are consuming.”

So the final conclusion actually leads us to a zero sum. While diet sodas were created to replace regular sodas by getting rid of dangerous sugars, their artificial substitutes don’t really accomplish much to our benefit. In fact, if the five years of research and twelve different studies reviewed by Purdue University taught us anything, it’s that diet sodas actually add more potential health risks than they potentially solve. You may not need to cut diet soda or even regular soda out of your diet altogether, but consider treating them like any other sweets and consume them sparingly.

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