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Zero calorie doesn’t necessarily mean zero risk

by Sarah Haan
MUSC Dietetic Intern
In 2005, carbonated soft drinks comprised 28.3 percent of the liquids Americans consumed. The Beverage Marketing Corporation estimates this is more than bottled water and milk combined. Much of this percentage consists of diet sodas.
If asked why they choose diet over regular, diet soda drinkers will probably give an array of answers, but I can guarantee a common one will be, “It’s better for me.” And with zero calories in the fizzy “diet” potions, how could it not be a better choice, right? Recent studies are showing that beneath the glorious “0 Calorie” label lurks hefty health effects you’ll want to know about.
Arguments on the safety of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners have been discussed since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating saccharine in 1907. Some studies have shown it to cause cancer in rats, while others claim to prove its safety. Recent studies focused more on the effects artificial sweeteners have on appetite. A Purdue study suggests that the sweet taste offered by zero calorie sweeteners sends a mixed signal to our brains. They hypothesize that we taste the sensation of sweetness, yet get no energy from the diet soda, creating a physiological effect which drives us to overeat. This study, however, was conducted with rats. Much more research is needed to draw accurate conclusions.
Another risk of diet soda comes with any carbonated beverages dark in color. A fact not disputed among scientists is that dark colas have phosphoric acid, a substance that leeches calcium from our bones. This is a huge problem for a society already stricken with bone health issues from diets low in vitamin D and calcium. Adding phosphoric acid to your diet via soda can put you at further risk for osteoporosis and brittle bones.
And we all know caffeine—an enemy for some people and a daily requirement for others. The average caffeinated diet soda contains 35mg of caffeine, less than a cup of coffee, but if four cans of soda are consumed a day, it will add up.
Caffeine, in large amounts, can cause dizziness, anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns. It has also been proven to have a withdrawal effect if one discontinues use abruptly. The FDA recommends no more than two cups, or 16 fluid ounces per day for optimum health. Caffeine is also a diuretic, causing your body to excrete water when consumed. This, on top of the fact that your diet soda consumption is probably replacing a more beneficial bottle of water that might be on your desk, can lead your body to becoming dehydrated.
So the next time you’re picking up your third diet soda for the day, thinking you’re doing your body a favor, remember a few of these facts. You’ve probably heard that moderation is key, and even with zero calories, diet soda is no exception.


Friday, March 21, 2008
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