There’s Nothing “Diet” About Diet Soda

by Dr. Richard Foxx

People love soda. On average, Americans drink about 1.5 cans per day. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a diet or not, one of the most popular ways to satisfy a sweet tooth is with a cold, refreshing soda.

Diet colas and sodas have long been considered a healthy alternative when trying to shed a few extra pounds. After all, diet sodas typically contain zero calories because the sugars are eliminated and replaced with no-calorie sweeteners. The problem, however, is that diet soda drinkers tend to experience accelerated weight gain, boost their risk for both metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

How could a zero calorie, diet drink be seemingly worse for you than the sugar-packed alternatives? The main issue is that it causes people to make up for those lost calories elsewhere. They’ll say to themselves, “Okay, I’m having a diet soda with my Big Mac combo so I might as well get a large.” It sounds crazy, but the research backs it up.

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Going diet can also lead to increased cravings for sugary foods and the illusion that your diet is improving, when the fact it’s essentially remaining the same or getting worse. So if you’re trying to lose weight and one of the keys to your plan is to switch from regular to diet soda, I’ve got news for you: it’s not going to work.

A new study from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health echoes the results of previous studies: that diet soda drinkers increase their risk for a number of health issues by thinking they’re making a smart choice. The study found that diet soda drinkers don’t make any other changes to their diet and that obese or overweight people are more than twice as likely to drink diet soda than adults at a healthy weight. This clearly indicates that soda only plays a small role in a person’s overall diet.

A San Antonio Heart Study also showed diet soda drinkers tend to be worse off than those who elect the sugary options. It found that people who drank at least 21 cans of diet soda per week were twice as likely to become overweight and obese as people that didn’t. And another study shows that drinking a diet soda every day is associated with a 36% increased chance of suffering metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes.

When you consider some of the known issues with the sweeteners used in diet colas—how they affect insulin response and make people crave additional sweets—and the likelihood that they can cause tooth decay, osteoporosis, and weight gain, these are clearly not “healthy” alternatives.

If you’re trying to shed weight,the best way to do it is to cut soda of any form from your diet. Water is the best hydrator and weight loss drink available, so try substituting your daily soda for it. Doing so will improve your health in a number of ways.


Richard M. Foxx, MD has decades of medical experience with a comprehensive background in endocrinology, aesthetic and laser medicine, gynecology, and sports medicine. He has extensive experience with professional athletes, including several Olympic competitors. Dr. Foxx practices aesthetic and laser medicine, integrative medicine, and anti-aging medicine. He is the founder and Medical Director of the Medical and Skin Spa located in Indian Wells, California, at the Hyatt Regency Resort. Dr. Foxx is certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and is a member of the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine, the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine, the International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology, and a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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