Soda is getting a lot of press these days. Numerous health studies have been published about the potential risks of drinking soda – both regular and diet. While sugar-filled sodas have been linked to weight gain and even obesity, diet drinks are also scrutinized. In fact, recent research suggests that diet drinks may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Both regular and diet sodas are not only linked to obesity, but kidney damage and certain cancers.
Considering the overall impact on weight, it’s important to remember that many beverages, including regular sodas, contain calories that people often ignore. A 2004 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that calories from beverages account for more than 20 percent of the total daily calories consumed by Americans over age two. Consuming that many calories just from beverages is one reason why drinks such as regular sodas contribute to weight gain.
Switching to diet soda was once thought to be the answer. However, we now know that while diet drinks have no calories, the brain responds to the sweetness in sugar substitutes, stimulating chemicals that can increase feelings of hunger. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.
People also have questions about the safety of sugar substitutes used to sweeten many diet drinks and low-calorie foods. The most common substitutes are Aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®), Saccharin (Sweet‘N Low®) and Sucralose (Splenda®). Stevia (Truvia®, Pure Via®) is another sugar substitute that is made from an herbal plant and is found in some foods and drinks. Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they are all considered safe in moderation.
When it comes to choosing food and drink – including sodas, and foods and beverages containing sugar substitutes – practicing moderation is a good thing to keep in mind. And remember, there’s always nature’s number one beverage – water. If you’re trying to cut down on soda, consider adding a bit of flavor to water with slices of lemon, lime or cucumber, mint leaves or strawberries.