Are Diet Sodas Bad for you?

Almost every popular sugar-sweetened beverage on the market has a “light” or a “diet” version… Diet Coke, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero, etc. this article will shed light on the health aspects of diet sodas and are diet sodas bad for you?

Are Diet Sodas Bad For You?

Diet drinks, alternatively called as
– Sugar-free
–   Zero-calorie
–  Low-calorie

Diet sodas are
–  Artificially sweetened
–  Carbonated beverages
–  Virtually no calories

Main Ingredients in Diet Soda

It has artificial sweeteners like
– Aspartame
– Saccharin
– Sucralase


Aspartame is the most wide spread used in the market. Although very popular, it has faced controversy. It’s opponents claim about long-term affects on health, however there is no such evidences in the extensive studies carried out to prove this phenomena.

The FDA approved of aspartame, recommending a maximum daily intake of 50 Milligram/kg of weight.

The ingredients of aspartame are amino acids:
–   Aspartic acid
–    Phenylalanine

A number of regulatory agencies have approved the consumption of aspartame for example
–       Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
–      United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation
–      World Health Organisation
–      American Heart Association
–      and American Dietetic Association

Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sucrose.


Public health authorities in America and other countries  have determined sucralase as a safe artificial sweetener.  It is about 600 times more sweeter than sucrose. Like other sugar substitutes, sucralase does not has the bitter aftertaste property.

Acesulfame Potassium

Studies have shown that acesulfame potassium is safe to use. It is also 200 times more sweeter than sucrose.


In the past, there was a concern about using saccharin as bladder tumors were found in rats that consumed large amounts of saccharine. But looking at these results, further 30 studies were conducted, which showed no link to cancer.

Other main ingredients of diet sodas


Famous diet soda brands contain 35-55 mg of caffeine. These amounts are more or less the same in the regular versions too. Caffeine is considered to be safe if taken 100-200 mg per day.

Phosphoric acid

Diet sodas contain a mineral acid composed of phosphorus which is called posphoric acid. Phosphoric avid gives soda it’s tart, sharp flavor and acidity.
Phosphoric acid in diet sodas is corrosive and has long been linked to the risk of dental erosion.

Health Problems Caused By Diet Sodas

Diet sodas and dental health

Soda has been globally linked to poor dental health, especially children 1, 2 .Although sugar plays a major role, the acidity of diet sodas can also negatively influence dental health1. Overconsumption of sodas without adequate dental care may result in cavities and yellowing of teeth3.

Diet sodas and kidneys

All diet sodas contain some amount of phosphate, but the highest percentage exist in dark sodas. Phosphate mobilises minerals like calcium and magnesium from bones into the body fluids. These excess amounts of minerals can collect and mineralise into kidney stones.
High sodium content of diet sodas can be linked to progressive kidney function decline, as it’s excess amounts are toxic for kidneys and it disrupts fluid balance in the body.


Unless a caffeine free variety of diet soda is chosen, if the drink is consumed in large amounts it can be dehydrating. Kidneys and a number of hormones are vital to maintain fluid and mineral balance in blood. When our body needs to conserve water, kidneys signal brain to release anti-diuretic hormone that helps to retain water. Caffeine affects the production of anti-diuretic hormone. Thus additional water will be released from the body as hormone will not be sent to the kidneys.

Type II Diabetes

According to WHO, In 2016 the number of adults worldwide affected by diabetes has quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million.

This disease has a direct relation with obesity and sugar consumption, so there is a strong argument that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with sugar-free drinks would benefit.
However, there is no evidence of these drinks being beneficial against diabetes.
A study of 6,814 individuals aged 45-85 years, daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 67% increased risk of type II diabetes 4 .
In another study, 66,118 French women were followed for a total of 14 years. Women who consumed the most diet drinks had a 121% greater risk of developing type II diabetes 8.


There is an association between diet soda and depression
In a study of 263,925 adults aged 51-70, individuals who drank soda were 30% more likely to be diagnosed with depression over a period of 10 years.
The link was stronger for diet soda than regular soda 5. Are diet sodas bad for you? In this case, yes.


According to the US Food and Drug Administration these diet soda sweetness are safe during pregnancy but as studies of their effects on pregnant women are limited, doctors recommend moderate range consumption.
According to the recommendations of American Pregnancy Association, saccharine should be avoided by pregnant women as it has been shown to cross the placenta and remain in fetal tissues.
Diet soda is also associated with preterm delivery. In a study of 59,334 pregnant women in Denmark, 1 serving per day of diet drinks was associated with a 38% increased risk of preterm delivery. 4 servings per day increased the risk by 78% 6.

Obesity and Weight Gain

The main purpose people switch to diet drinks is to cut back on calories so that there is no weight gain because of these diet sodas.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work. In a randomized controlled trial, 318 individuals were divided into 3 groups: A control group, a group that replaced sugary soda with water and a group that replaced sugary soda with diet drinks 7.
At the end of the 6-month study, there was no significant difference between all three groups. In this controlled trial, diet soda didn’t make things worse, but didn’t make them better either. Neither did water.

The above mentioned studies are epidemiological studies, which can only show the association of diet sodas with these ailments. They do not prove any harmful effects directly.

Controlled trials are needed to be done to prove whether diet sodas are healthy or harmful. So what have been your experience, are diet sodas bad for you or healthy?



1.Kaplowitz GJ. An update on the dangers of soda pop . Dent Assist. (2011)
2.Cheng R, et al Dental erosion and severe tooth decay related to soft drinks: a case report and literature review . J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. (2009)
3.Shenkin JD, et al Soft drink consumption and caries risk in children and adolescents . Gen Dent. (2003)
4.Jennifer A. Nettleton et al Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the multi ethnic study of atherosclerosis. Am Diab Ass. (2008)
6.Halldorsson Tl et al. Intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and risk of preterm delivery. Am J Clin Nut. (2010)
7.Deborah F Tate et al. Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults. Am J Clin Nut. (2012).
8. Guy F et al. Consumption of artificially and sugar sweetened beverages and incident type 2 diabetes in Etude epidemiologique aupres des femmes de la

Mutuelle Générale de l’education nationale. Am J of Clin Nut. (2012)
9. image from:




Yusra Kashif

Yusra Kashif has done masters in Food and Nutrition. She has also worked as a Dietitian in an international hospital and as a teacher in a private school. Currently she is taking a further degree in “Food and Nutrition Advisor” from U.K. She loves crafts, baking, cooking and exploring. Yusra is currently a stay at home mum and a part time writer.

Latest posts by Yusra Kashif (see all)

Yusra Kashif

Yusra Kashif has done masters in Food and Nutrition. She has also worked as a Dietitian in an international hospital and as a teacher in a private school. Currently she is taking a further degree in “Food and Nutrition Advisor” from U.K. She loves crafts, baking, cooking and exploring. Yusra is currently a stay at home mum and a part time writer.

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