If you love Diet Coke or any other diet soda, we might have some bad news for you. And it isn’t even related to caffeine!
According to several different studies, even though diet drinks supposedly consist of zero net calories, they can have a lot of negative effects — including weight gain, kidney problems, increased risk of diabetes and increased risk of depression.
So if you love diet soda but want to cut your risk of disease, it might be a good idea to kick it to the curb!
Read more: 13 ‘healthy’ snacks that aren’t healthy at all
Here are 5 reasons to avoid drinking diet soda
1. It can harm your heart.
According to research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, men who drank two or more servings of Diet Coke had a 23% higher risk of developing heart failure. In the study, 42,400 men were tracked over 12 years and 3,604 cases of a positive association between sweetened beverage consumption and risk of heart failure were found. In addition, 509 people died of the condition.
The study did not differentiate between diet soda and regular soda — but instead showed an equal amount of risk between both. Drinks included Diet Coke, Pepsi Max and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners.
Read more: Doing this 4 times a week drastically reduces heart disease
2. It can cause kidney problems.
A study done back in 2009 of over 3,000 women found a link between diet soda and kidney problems.
“While more study is needed, our research suggests that higher sodium and artificially sweetened soda intake are associated with greater rate of decline in kidney function,” said Dr. Julie Lin MD, MPH, FASN of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston and coauthor of the study.
Researchers found that women who drank two or more diet sodas a day had as much as a 30% decrease in kidney function.
“Thirty percent is considered significant,” said Dr. Lin. At least five studies have been done attempting to make the connection between soda and kidney disease, but only two have been significant.
3. It can increase your risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Several studies have linked diet drinks to increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems like diabetes and stroke, in addition to increased belly fat and high cholesterol.
A 2008 study of about 10,000 adults at the University of Minnesota found that 1 soda drink a day led to a 34% increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, another study found a 36% greater risk of metabolic syndrome related to drinking diet soda and a 67% greater risk of type 2 diabetes compared with people who did not drink any diet soda.
4. It leads to “increased waist circumference.”
Two studies done by the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, (one in 2011 and another in 2015), found that two servings of diet soda, specifically Diet Coke, increased waistlines by over three inches.
Compared with non-users, diet soft drink consumers had a 70% increase in “waist circumference” than did non-users. But, frequent consumers — defined as consuming two or more diet drinks a day — had a 500% waistline increase over non-users, according to researchers.
Why is this? According to Perdue University, diet sweeteners trick the body and disrupt its natural ability to regulate calorie intake.
“Artificial sweeteners trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain,” says Brooke Alpert, RD, author of the book The Sugar Detox.
Read more: Best way to control your weight? Hint: It’s not just diet or exercise!
5. It alters your mood.
Scary as it is, aspartame, or the sweetener in Diet Coke, is on an EPA list of potentially dangerous chemicals contributing to neurotoxicity, right beneath arsenic.
The American Academy of Neurology has discovered that artificially sweetened drinks are connected to a higher risk of depression – at least 30% as much.
“Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical—and may have important mental—health consequences,” said study author Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, with the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
“Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk,” he said. “More research is needed to confirm these findings, and people with depression should continue to take depression medications prescribed by their doctors.”
But, the good news is, coffee was connected to a lower risk of depression in the study.
Here are some better alternatives
So what might be some better alternatives to diet soda? If you don’t like the non-flavor of water, you could try Vitamin Water Zero which has zero calories but it sweetened with Stevia instead of aspartame, or you could opt for coffee or tea instead.
Additionally, you might try sparkling mineral water, but sparkling water also has some risks. The best (and cheapest) alternative to soda really is just plain ‘ole 100% water.