If you follow a well-balanced diet without limitations (“everything in moderation”), regular or diet soda every now and then can be an enjoyable part of life. But which one is better?
The current recommendation of added sugar is no more than 9.5 teaspoons per day. Just one 20-ounce soda is 15 teaspoons of sugar! Studies have found a higher intake (two or more per day) of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. If you already have these conditions, high intake of these beverages was also associated with an increased risk in mortality related to these diseases. There was another recent study showing higher consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with increased risk overall of cancer and of breast cancer. While sugar doesn’t CAUSE these diseases, it will INCREASE RISK.
So what about diet soda and sugar substitutes? There have been questions about the effect of artificial sweeteners on gut bacteria and how this can affect development of chronic disease — especially in insulin resistance and diabetes. There is also evidence linking artificially sweetened beverages with increased craving of sweets and increase in overall calorie intake — meaning that the brain is tricked into wanting more calories due to the sweetness without calories of the diet drink.
The Final Word
The most important thing about all studies is that in order to experience these negative health effects, LARGE AMOUNTS of the beverage have to be consumed on a regular basis, such as two or more per day of diet or regular soda. If you find that you are consuming this much, try sparkling water, water with fresh fruit or mint, or unsweet ice tea with lemon. It’s okay to enjoy the occasional diet or regular soda. In the end, we all know hydration is very important for overall health. So enjoy in moderation, but keep in mind that water should be your mainstay for hydration.