The consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has increased dramatically in the past decade and that parallels with the increase in obesity. Currently, sugary soft drinks contribute to 8-9% of total energy intake in both children and adults.
8-9% of a 2000 calorie diet is roughly 160-180 calories. If you simply remove that from your diet and substitute water or tea, you could possibly lose weight by being in a greater calorie deficit. It might not seem like much but it can make a difference long term (assuming the rest of your diet is fairly legit)
I’m not here to lecture you on the negative effects of sodas. Odds are you’ve heard enough already regarding the sugar, weight gain and fat gain. I’m not going on some witch hunt targeting Coca Cola or any other company for producing this product because frankly small amounts of it probably won’t really impact your long term health and YOU have a choice to drink it or not.
I will stress this over and over again that 99.9% of the negative effect from soda is simply dosage dependent. Having 1 soda a week probably won't have much of a negative impact on your well being. Having one Soda a day? Well, that becomes worse but still could have very little impact. Three, Five, Eight a day? That could potentially create problems. Compound that over the course of years and you could set yourself up for a host of issues.
Once again, reiterating dosage.
So be smart about it. If you struggle with weight and continue to drink sodas I’d recommend you STOP. If you understand macronutrients and occasionally want to drink a regular or diet soda, reduce something else, and have at it.
With that said.....there are major differences between Regular Soda and Diet Soda.
There are three benefits to drinking diet soda vs. regular soda.
The second, it doesn’t contain any sugar. It’s flavored with artificial sweeteners so you avoid the whole “sugar” problem (sorta). These artificial sweeteners are 180 times to 600 times sweeter then sugar. See below on artificial sweeteners.
Third, it won’t cause cavities or tooth decay because it doesn’t contain sugar. With artificial sweeteners bacteria can’t survive therefore it won’t create plaque seeking to destroy your teeth. With that said, it does contain acid that can strip your teeth of enamel opening it up to a greater chance of tooth decay from other foods and sugars you eat.
Now, the fellas over at Examine.Com put together this WONDERFUL piece on Diet Soda. If you are looking for an unbiased, factual piece, here it is...
Obviously, these three benefits make diet soda a pretty legit option...
…Now comes the question "what about artificial sweeteners?"
To start, the whole artificial sweeteners discussion is murky at best. (For the sake of this blog becoming too long, I'm going to really shorten this because there could be a book written about this)
There is inconclusive evidence on both sides.
Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners can help reduce overall caloric intake causing subjects to lose weight over the long term. Less calories than regular soda, over the course of time, create a caloric deficit, causing weight loss.
Other studies suggest consuming artificial sweeteners causes subjects to gain weight because they affect the body's ability to gauge how many calories are being consumed. Essentially if one consumes a bunch of artificial sweeteners this triggers the brain to wait for the real sugar to come creating that sense of hunger. This hunger could cause you to eat other foods, not necessarily more sugar, which can lead to a calorie surplus thus causing weight gain.
More studies have been done to see if artificial sweeteners cause cancer, contribute to metabolic syndrome, increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Now research isn’t 100% conclusive on any of these. Here's a good unbiased article that discusses in a bit greater detail some of these studies and finding. It does a good job breaking down where some of the information you have heard came from and discusses if it's actually legit or not.
There needs to be more time and more research done in order to give us a better understanding of artificial sweeteners.
There are, well, not many or zero benefits, of drinking regular soda.
It can quench your thirst? It tastes good? It’s cheap? If those are even benefits...
...There isn’t much else.
Regular soda contains calories. If you’re goal is to reduce calories from your diet, regular sodas are a simple way to prevent that. Three 12 oz Coca Colas are roughly 420 calories. That is a lot considering it won’t curb your hunger or help you from a nutritional standpoint.
It contains sugar. Once again, I’m not an anti-sugar advocate, all gung ho about removing sugar, but sugar sweetened beverages, in this case soda, provide little nutritional benefit and increase weight gain. One 12 oz. can of soda contains around 8 teaspoons of sugar. That’s roughly 130 calories This could potentially pose the risk of diabetes, fractures and renal caries in the future.
So What Should You Do Now?
For starters, you don't need ANY soda in your diet. If you are serious about your health, weight loss, and well being, then cut the crap out from the get go.
If you must have one and are stuck choosing between the two, I would 100% without a doubt, 10 times over, choose to drink diet soda over regular soda. In fact, it's not even close.
I'm a normal human being like you. I have urges and enjoy an occasional "pop."
You won't be condemned if you have a "pop," nor should you. However, you need to be aware of the consequences from the decisions you make. If you continue to choose soda's (both diet and regular) understand the health consequences that could be associated with it.
If all of this information confuses your or puts you into a state of panic, just avoid it altogether.