Do you know what lurks in your diet soda?

Some people say soda, some say pop. You probably like the taste more than the calories,...

Some people say soda, some say pop. You probably like the taste more than the calories, which is why so many people choose diet soda. The trend is evident in a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which shows diet beverage consumption in the USA has steadily increased over the past decade and that 20 percent of the population drink at least one diet beverage per day.

Artificial sugars

Although high fructose syrups sweeten many conventional sodas, the most common artificial sweeteners used in diet soda now include aspartame, acesulfame, sucralose and neotame all potent sweeteners 100 to 7,000 times sweeter than sugar. The rationale for using synthetic products instead of sugar is that taste buds sense the sweetness but the body receives zero calories. Sounds ingenious right? If only it was that simple.

New research on artificial sweeteners

A scientific study by the Obesity Society suggests that artificial sweeteners in beverages might actually be "fueling rather than fighting" several health epidemics in the USA. What health scientists and nutritionists now realize is that the body's response to synthetic sweeteners is more complex than initially thought and individuals who consume excess diet sodas are 44 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack.

A recent medical study on pre-term labor warns that pregnant women should also limit diet soda consumption as much as possible. The study showed that women who drank four or more diet sodas a day during pregnancy were 78 percent more likely to deliver early.

Sometimes, the choice may seem to be between the lesser of two evils: consuming too much sugar or suffering unintended consequences of artificial sweeteners in beverages. It is even more complicated for diet soda drinkers with certain diagnosed health complications because it is thought that sweet "taste cues" lose their ability to regulate normal physiological responses from cells and organs that serve to regulate energy balance.

All sodas, whether you drink diet or regular soda, are an unhealthy for everyone. Replace soda by following these suggestions:

  1. Eliminate the temptation when stocking the pantry purchase low sugar, organic fruit juices instead of diet sodas.
  2. Mix carbonated water with 100 percent fruit juice for a healthy spritzer that tastes like soda.
  3. Instead of drinking diet beverages at restaurants, order water with a slice of lemon or sprig of mint for flavor.
  4. Drink chilled herbal teas, such as Lemon Zinger, Rooibos or hibiscus.
  5. Incorporate more slow-release (low Glycemic Index) carbs like whole oats or wheat germ in your diet to reduce sugar cravings. Low GI foods are digested more slowly and don't cause a spike in blood sugar.

Contact your Atlanta-area doctor to learn more about how sodas expose you to a significant risk of developing metabolic syndromes like heart disease and obesity.

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