Many people are aware of the massive amounts of sweeteners contained in soft drinks and just how detrimental this sugar consumption can be to their health. That’s one of the reasons that “diet” soft drinks have such a big share of the market. In fact, Diet Coke captures more of the consumer market than regular Pepsi.
Unfortunately, the science on artificially sweetened drinks is looking increasingly dire, as recent studies have conclusively shown. It seems that just avoiding refined sugar isn’t enough to keep you healthy.
According to research, drinking two or more glasses a day of any soda is associated with higher death rates.
Excessive consumption of sugar has been known for a long time to be linked to diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and stroke, among many other problems. However, many people hoped that simply by switching from Coke to Diet Coke they could avoid these issues.
While artificial sweeteners might not bring about “sugar diseases,” they carry their own host of issues, as a study from 10 European countries published on Sept. 3, 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed.
Pulling data from over 450,000 adults who consumed two or more soft drinks a day, the study “found that consumption of total, sugar-sweetened, and artificially sweetened soft drinks was positively associated with all-cause deaths.” Sugary drinks were more associated with “deaths from digestive diseases,” whereas their artificial counterparts were connected to “deaths from circulatory diseases.”
As study co-author Neil Murphy of the International Agency for Research on Cancer said to Reuters, the message is clear. “Our results for sugar-sweetened soft drinks provide further support to limit consumption and to replace them with other healthier beverages, preferably water.”
But it’s not just this study that has revealed the grim truth behind soft drinks. A study in journal Circulation published on March 18, 2019, looked into both sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) and their relationship to mortality among U.S. adults. The study found “consumption of SSBs was positively associated with mortality primarily through CVD [cardiovascular disease] mortality.”
Most shockingly, as CNN reported, the study found that, “Compared with women who had sugary beverages less than once per month, those who had more than two servings a day—defined as a standard glass, bottle or can—had a 63 percent increased risk of premature death.”
These studies go along with one conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative with a sample of 80,000 postmenopausal women. Once again they found that women who drank two or more artificially sweetened drinks every day “were 31 percent more likely to have a clot-based stroke, 29 percent more likely to have heart disease and 16 percent more likely to die from any cause,” per CNN. The study did not establish causation but merely observed a correlation.
Studies have shown that the artificial sweeteners within diet sodas can cause a series of health problems.
What is the mechanism at work in artificial sweeteners that seems to go along with poor health outcomes? Some doctors wonder if consuming artificial sweeteners encourages people to consume more sweet stuff in other areas.
Neil Murphy explained to Reuters that “[t]here are other factors which may be behind the association we observed” between high consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks and premature death. “For instance, high soft drink consumption may be a marker of overall unhealthy diet.”
Regardless of all that is at play, there’s a very easy way to avoid the conundrum. Rather than Coke or Diet Coke, drink water. If you need to flavor it with something to make it more palatable, then use a natural flavor like lemon juice, cucumber and mint, or honey. You might miss the pep that your Diet Coke break used to give, but you’ll be potentially saving yourself from very negative health effects.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.