By Ross Walker

A recent excellent review in Medical News Today looked at this rather disturbing issue. The clue is in the title for Diet Soft Drinks. Immediately, the ill-informed consumer believes that consuming a food or fluid that has the word ‘diet’ hooked onto the description has to be good for you. Over the past decade, the increasing body of scientific evidence has shown that diet soft drinks are purely marketing exercises with no health benefits over their already maligned, over-consumed cousins – standard soft drinks.

“Things (clearly) do go better with … soft drink X”! Things like poor health and disease, but the diet drinks do not fare any better.

A recent study from The American Journal of Nutrition followed 66,118 women for fourteen years, and showed that both standard soft drinks and diet drinks were linked to higher rates of Type 2 Diabetes. Other studies showed that the people who had the highest intake of high fat dairy had much lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes. Choose your fluids wisely!

So, how does consuming diet soft drinks contribute to Type 2 Diabetes? The clear link is between consumption of any type of soft drinks – either sugary or artificially sweetened – and the metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is the most common syndrome in the world, characterised by tendency to diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride abnormalities and fat around the belly. And because of all of the above, predisposition to cardiovascular disease in the form of heart attack and stroke.

The journal Diabetes Care recently published a study linking the regular consumption of diet soft drinks with increased sugar levels and belly fat. The rate of Type 2 diabetes was 60% higher in those who regularly consumed diet soft drinks on a daily basis. Another study in the American Geriatric Society looked at waist circumference in 750 patients over the age of 65 studied for nine years. Those who drank diet soft drinks on a daily basis had four times more waist gain, compared with those who didn’t consume diet soft drinks.

There are four basic alternative sweeteners;

  1. Sucralose – which is found in many diet soft drinks and leads to insulin peaks despite the lack of sugar, and therefore, exactly the same rates of Type 2 diabetes.
  2. Aspartame – this can be in anything from diet soft drinks to chewing gum and also increases body mass index with long term use.
  3. Sorbitol – which is also used in many diet foods and diet soft drinks and can often lead to diarrhoea.
  4. Stevia – is the healthiest sugar substitute. If a sugar-like flavouring is used at all, it should be Stevia, which comes from Stevia leaf and does appear to be safe.

A few years back, a study was done on rats where they were given the equivalent amount of sugar consumed daily by the average person living in Western society. The sugar was stopped after two weeks and the rats demonstrated the same signs as humans going through heroin withdrawal.

It is disturbing that we humans have such a ‘sweet tooth’ and in many cases, an ‘artificially sweet tooth.’ Either way, it appears that diet soft drinks hold no health advantage over standard soft drinks. The best option here is to choose a healthier form of fluid.