My Diet Soda Revelation

I never thought my diet soda habit was a problem.  Sure, I was a “Diet Coke Head” – what of it? At least I wasn’t a slave to a morning cup of coffee. Besides, I figured, the zero-calorie drinks were good for my waistline.

Then came a study last month from the National Institutes of Health. Drink four cups or more of diet soda a day and your risk for developing depression jumps by 30%, the research showed. But the study couldn’t prove cause and effect (maybe calorie-counters are more likely to drink diet soda and to get depressed). And the study was done with people ages 50 to 70. I’m only 37! Off the hook, right?

Well, I wasn’t sure. So I grabbed a diet soda (hey, I was thirsty) and dove into the research.

 Jolt-less cola
According to nutrition expert Emilia Klapp, RD, a soda habit can rob your body of magnesium. In fact, she says, drinking just one can of soda subtracts 36 milligrams of the mineral from your body’s stores. Why does that matter? Because a lack of magnesium keeps your red blood cells from working the way they should, says Mehmet Oz, MD, and that saps your energy. So that can of soda I’m drinking to pep me up is really slowing me down.

Under pressure
I figured that since soda makes me less jittery than coffee, it must be better for my blood pressure. But according to Sharecare expert Kevin Soden, MD, recent research shows that a soda habit causes a rise in blood pressure: Just one cola a day raises your risk for hypertension by 15%. Making things worse (at least for my sense of superiority), coffee-drinkers didn’t experience the same BP rise.

So for those of you keeping score at home, I now have low energy and high blood pressure. And the hits just keep on coming.

The heart of the matter
According to Dr. Oz, studies show that drinking diet soda increases your risk for metabolic syndrome. That may not sound so bad, but metabolic syndrome doubles your risk for stroke and heart attacks — can’t get more serious than that. It also raises your risk for type II diabetes and some types of cancer.

The final insult
So maybe diet soda can increase my risk for a few health problems – okay, a lot of health problems. Still, I thought to myself, you have to take a few risks in life. Who knows, a bus could run me over tomorrow, and it wouldn’t matter if I had that diet soda or not.

Then I read something about my beloved drink that hit me where it hurt: the scale.

Turns out, diet soda may be linked to weight gain. “Even though diet soda has no calories, the artificial flavor and sweetness trigger the digestive process via your taste buds,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD. “And your intestine starts to secrete digestive juice in preparation for digestion. Problem is, there is nothing to digest.” The result, says dietitian Cohn: sugar cravings. “Many people ultimately eat more later in the day.”

So here I am, a Diet Coke Head facing the ugly side of addiction. Somehow, I just don’t have that fizzy feeling anymore. Anyone want a few cases of diet soda?

Are you trying to wean yourself off soda? What helps you get past a craving? Leave a comment in the box below.

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Cathy Poley

Cathy Poley is a Senior Web Producer at Sharecare. She has managed web and video projects for companies such as Primedia, and Turner Broadcasting. Not only is Cathy a Sharecare employee, but she is also an avid Sharecare user, finding that the Q&As she reads inspire her to make better decisions about her health.

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