When artificial sweeteners first took the grocery store by storm, they seemed like the answer to everyone’s prayers. People who wanted their fizzy drinks could finally enjoy the sweet foods they craved without packing on the calories—or so they believed.
But once those no- and low-caloric sweeteners started flooding the marketplace, researchers began studying the effects, and it’s pretty clear, looking back, that calorie-free drinks are much less healthy than we thought.
We looked into the science on artificial sweeteners and diet soda, and here’s what we found.
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Changes In Your Gut
According to a 2014 study published in the science journal Nature, fake sweeteners can change how your body processes sugar. Artificial sweeteners can change your intestines microbiome, which increases glucose intolerance. The study found this to be true in animal test subjects, which demonstrated the gut response to be probable in healthy human subjects.
Weight Gain and Increased Belly Fat
People often drink diet soda in an attempt to help them lose weight, but it actually might have the opposite effect. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Geriatrics Society found an association between older Americans who drank diet soda daily over a nine year period ended the study with waist circumferences, on average, nearly 3 inches larger than their counterparts who didn’t drink diet soda.
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Increased Appetite and Sugar Cravings
Another study from the University of Illinois found those who try to cut calories with diet soda may compensate with higher calorie meals, also leading to weight gain. This was the same conclusion reached in a study published by the American Journal of Public Health. The University of Illinois study acknowledges the possibility of an opposite correlation, suggesting those who indulge in unhealthy choices may use diet soda to compensate.
Additionally, a 2010 paper published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine found that artificial sweeteners can boost appetite and sugar cravings. As the authors explained: “Artificial sweeteners, precisely because they are sweet, encourage sugar craving and sugar dependence. Repeated exposure trains flavor preference.”
Increased Risk for Diabetes
You would think sugar-free drinks couldn’t change your body’s response to sugar, but there may be a link between the two. The American Diabetes Association journal, Diabetes Care published a study in 2009 that found an association between people who drank diet soda every day and a 67 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study acknowledges you cannot establish causality between diet soda consumption and type 2 diabetes.
Decreased Bone Health
Soda consumption has generally been associated with poor bone health in children, but a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking both regular and diet soda may lead to an increase in postmenopausal women’s hip fractures risk.