Diet sodas are not worth the health risks!

These seemingly innocent diet soft drinks have been marketed for decades as the healthier alternative, but recent medical research indicates that the absence of sugar does not make up for the health risks that come with diet drinks.

Kidney disease

Doctors that conducted a twenty-year study at Harvard Medical School have reported that drinking a lot of sugar-free cola beverages or other carbonated soft drinks might have effects on health. The study including more than 3 000 women reported a 30% reduction in kidney function amongst women that consumed two or more diet sodas per day.

According to Julie Lin, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, at the start of the study, all the women had healthy kidney function. The diet-soda drinkers experienced a drop in their glomerular filtration rate (an important measure of the kidney's function). Although it is expected for the glomerular filtration rate to decline slightly with age, the rate of decline amongst the diet soda drinkers was 3 times as much as for women who didn't drink diet sodas.

The study did account for other health factors such as age, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical activity, caloric intake and cardiovascular disease, but the link between diet sodas and kidney function persisted. Although this particular study will need to be confirmed by other studies, the evidence remains alarming.

Metabolic syndrome

In a separate study by the University of Minnesota, in 2008 of almost 10 000 adults, even just one diet soda a day was linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome that presents with symptoms such as belly fat and high cholesterol that puts you at risk for heart disease. The study was not clear as to whether that link was attributed to an ingredient in diet soda or the eating habits of the respondents, but it is enough evidence to raise a red flag.

Cell Damage

Diet sodas contain the preservatives, sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, that are not found in most regular sodas such as Coke and Pepsi. In 1999, Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., told a British newspaper that, "These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it - they knock it out altogether.” According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the preservative has also been linked to hives, asthma, and other allergic conditions.

Although, some companies have phased out sodium benzoate, Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi have replaced it with another preservative, potassium benzoate. What is of great concern is that both sodium and potassium benzoate were classified by the Food Commission in the UK as mild irritants to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

Stroke and dementia

In another study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Boston University, the researchers analysed how many sugary beverages and artificially sweetened soft drinks each person in two different age groups drank, at different time points, between 1991 and 2001. The data was then compared with how many people suffered stroke or dementia over the next 10 years.

The researchers found that those who drank one artificially sweetened soft drink a day, compared to those that never drank diet soft drinks, were almost three times as likely to have an ischemic stroke, caused by blocked blood vessels.

They also found that those who drank one a day were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Those who drank one to six artificially sweetened beverages a week were 2.6 times as likely to experience an ischemic stroke but were no more likely to develop dementia.

Poor dental health

On a final note, if one considers that the pH of battery acid is 1 and the pH of water is 7, then the pH of 3.2 found in diet soda is extremely acidic. This acid dissolves tooth enamel, resulting in sensitivity and weakened structure of the teeth.

If you do drink diet sodas on a regular basis, please contact your doctor to arrange for blood tests to assess your current health status.

Contact 011 792 1616 or visit

The infographic below offers a summary of the concerning side effects from drinking diet soda.

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