This article is free of opinion and bias, and is based solely on science and accredited media reports. No medical advice is offered herein on the part of the author. All listed theories and facts within this article are fully-attributed to several medical experts, scientists, and media outlets, including Grandview Research, TheConversation.com, Penn Medicine, University of Texas at Austin, Farmington Heart Study, Purdue University, Cleveland Clinic, Sara N. Bleich, PhD, Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, Seanna Vine, BA, and Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD.
For further perspective, I am a former mental health professional with training in Psychology. Though I left the field to become a full-time writer, I have continued my studies in the mental health realm.
If we base the popularity of a product on its sales, then the diet soda industry has historically been among the most popular of drinking items on the market. See here for current statistics from GrandviewResearch.com, in their article entitled “Diet Soft Drinks: Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Distribution Channel (Supermarkets & General Merchandise, Online), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2019 - 2025.”
As illustrated in the above statistics, much like it’s higher-calorie counterpart diet soda remains a sales force.
For a history of diet soda, see here for “The Rise and Fall of Tab – After Surviving the Sweetener Scares, the Iconic Diet Soda Gets Canned,” as published on TheConversation.com. From the article: While some might think Tab was the first diet soda, that honor actually belongs to a beverage called No-Cal, which was developed by beverage industry pioneer Hyman Kirsch in 1952. Kirsch wanted to create a soda for diabetics and people with cardiovascular problems, so he used cyclamate, which was discovered in 1937 by a graduate student working at a University of Illinois chemistry lab after he licked some of the substance and found that it tasted sweet. About 30 times sweeter than sugar, cyclamate isn’t metabolized, making it ideal for people who need to avoid sugar.
Tab was a brand that ultimately did not survive its competition. Other diet sodas, however, continue to thrive. As with many industries, diet sodas have had years that fell below expectations — in some instances due to occasional public shifts toward more healthy drink options — but the soft drink option overall remains a high-seller.
To that acknowledgment, studies have continued in an effort to warn consumers about the dangers of diet soda consumption with science-based data.
Medical Studies on Diet Soda
Penn Medicine published an article on diet soda that speaks directly to the majority of medically-derived conclusions regarding its intake. See here for “Why Diet Soda is Bad For You.”
Among Penn Medicine’s listed findings, credited to “recent studies,” are: a) a likelihood of weight gain as opposed to loss due to additives and chemicals that cause highly-caloric or sugar-loaded food cravings, b) a type-II diabetes link, and c) substantial increases in heart attack and stroke risk.
Healthline.com‘s article, “8 Potential Side Effects of Consuming Too Much Diet Soda,” supplements the above findings with several more potential dangers if the derivative is consumed in abundance. These include damage to tooth enamel, gut health and bone density, as well as inducing headaches. See here for Healthline piece, credited to “licensed nutritions and dietitians.”
For specific studies on the matter, see here for the University of Texas at Austin webpage, which lists the following:
- The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that people who drink diet soda are likely to gain, not lose, weight.
- Diet soda drinkers in the Framingham Heart Study were at high risk for weight gain and symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome, such as elevated blood sugar levels.
- Researchers at Purdue University found that rats fed artificial sweeteners gained more weight than rats fed "sugary foods."
According to the Cleveland Clinic, quoting registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD: “Research suggests that your body reacts to certain nonnutritive foods, including the artificial sweeteners in diet soda, in ways that may actually harm your health.”
Finally, for a science-based paper, see here for “Diet-Beverage Consumption and Caloric Intake Among US Adults, Overall and by Body Weight,” by Sara N. Bleich, PhD, Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, Seanna Vine, BA, and Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, which is also shared on the National Library of Medicine’s webpage. See here for the older 2014 study, which nonetheless continues to reflect current results. Quoting from the study: Overweight and obese adults drink more diet beverages than healthy-weight adults and consume significantly more solid-food calories and a comparable total calories than overweight and obese adults who drink SSBs. Heavier US adults who drink diet beverages will need to reduce solid-food calorie consumption to lose weight.
The consensus is clear: As regular soda is high in sugar and calories, which is the reason for the existence of the diet variety, the latter is equally unhealthy.
Medical studies have largely concluded that diet soda, originally brought to market as a no-calorie, healthier option to the United States’ most sold type of soft drink, is instead as generally unhealthy as its counterpart. The most common reason for the findings is that the artificial additives and chemicals that replace sugar in the diet soda variety actually make consumers crave high-calorie and sugar-laden foods, which subsequently causes weight gain as opposed to preventing it.
Many consumers have heard of the short and long-term risks associated with diet soda; I hope this article has proved enlightening on those issues as determined by medical research.
Thank you for reading.