Is It Bad For My Health To Drink Diet Soda?

Hmmm…..Well it won’t kill you, but it may negatively affect your gut health, worsen your insulin sensitivity and continue to make you crave sweets. We get this question a lot in our clinic! Let’s discuss more!

What are non-nutritive sweeteners?

First, what’s the ingredient that we are concerned about in diet soda’s and other “diet” foods?  Non-nutritive sweeteners are low calorie sweeteners, artificial sweeteners and non -caloric sweeteners that provide no nutritional benefits like vitamins or minerals. They are used to make food and beverage sweet.  The FDA approved the following non-nutritive sweeteners:

  • Aspartame (NutraSweet/Equal aka the blue packet)
  • Acesulfame0K (Sweet One)
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low aka the pink packet)
  • Sucrolose (Splenda aka the yellow packet)
  • Stevia (Truvia, Stevia in the Raw, SweetLeaf, Sweet Drops, Sun Crystals, PureVia aka the green packet)
  • Monk Fruit
  • Erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbiotol, xylitol, hydrated starch hydrolysases-These are sugar alcohols that do not get absorbed in the small intestine (and come right out the back door), note in high does this may cause gas, stomach pain and diarrhea so not a good choice for people with GI/IBS issues.

These non-nutritive sweeteners are helpful in blood sugar control, weight management, prevention of cavities, but are they healthy for us?

Recent research in Diabetes Care and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show a strong association with higher glucose levels and increase abdominal fat with one or more diet soda consumption.    Hypothesis is that certain sugar alternatives are linked with changing our gut flora (aka good bacteria in our body) which affects our metabolism and insulin resistance.

Saccharin and sucralose are linked to negatively affecting blood glucose and gut bacteria per a recent research article.Many of the studies do not include all the non nutritive sweeteners and many of the studies are small and rarely include studies that involve actual humans. We still need more research to show that diet soda causes higher blood sugar and abdominal fat increase but can identify that something isn’t right.

So yes a diet soda once a in a while (i.e. 1-2 times per month, won’t do too much damage to your health, but best to wean off completely, especially as we learn more about the health implications as research is coming out.

Tips and tricks to decrease diet soda/drinks intake:

  • Keep it out of the house, limit to special occasions like outings and parties
  • Replace every other soda you would drink with a substitute listed below
  • Carbonated flavored water without sugar substitutions
  • Mix a small amount of 100% juice in sparkling water
  • Flavor water with cut fruit-add fruit and herbs in ice cubes to throw in your water bottle
  • Flavored herbal teas (you can drink both hot and cold) including green tea and matcha which can have anticancer health properties (this also has caffeine for those going to diet cola for the caffeine)
  • Swap for kombucha which has the bubble taste and possible gut health benefits.
  • Try a smoothie if you are craving something sweet

Need a recipe?

Need more great recipes for your diet food and drink swaps? Check our meal planning app which provides thousands of recipes created by Registered Dietitians like us! Our Meal Planning program also includes a private group to help you navigate the world of meal planning!