Diet soda has many different names ranging from ‘pop’ to ‘carbonated drinks’ to ‘diet fizzy drinks’. But are they really as sugar free and good for you as you think? Diet soda tends to be artificially sweetened which means it contains a sugar substitute. A sugar substitute is an additive which mirrors sugar in taste, some of them are natural additives and some are not natural. The non-natural ones tend to be the ones called artificial sweeteners. These products tend to be marketed with persons with diabetes and athletes and the health conscious, among us in mind. Also people who want to lose weight will drink these diet drinks.
A little bit of history of diet soda
1952 is when the first diet soda refreshments were sold commercially sparking a whole new era in refreshments. It was a gentleman with the name of Kirsch Bottling and his son who first introduced diet Ginger Ale in Brooklyn, New York City. The diet Ginger Ale named No-Cal was invented to help the diabetic patients of the Jewish sanitarium. The Jewish Sanitarium for chronic illness is now known as the Kings brook Jewish Medical Center. No-Cal was the major producer of Diet soda until the birth of two major companies which are still in operation today. The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo became so popular that No-Cal gradually disappeared from the shelves. In 1962 Dr Pepper introduced their own brand of diet beverage to compete with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. It took a while for the sales to increase as it became a common misconception that diet soda was only for the benefit of diabetic patients. 1963 Coca-Cola joined in the diet soda revolution also selling a brand of Diet Soda named ‘Tab’. Tab proved to be a major success in the diet soda market. Tab disappeared then made a return in the 1990’s after the release of Diet Coke in 1982 which pushed ‘Tab’ onto the back ground. Diet Coke was more easily recognized as a member of the Coca-Cola Company than ‘Tab’.
Different sweeteners used in Diet Drinks
- Aspartame is an artificial sweetener very common in Diet drinks such as Diet Coke, a sweetener which is a non-saccharide sweetener commonly used as a sugar substitute in food and drinks and commonly used by the company NutraSweet.
- Cyclamates (discovered in 1937) are famed for being the first artificial sweetener used in Diet Soda. It is roughly 30-50 times sweeter than refined sugar. This makes it the weakest of all of the artificial sweeteners. There are others stronger and more potent in use today. There have been complaints that it tends to have an unpleasant aftertaste. The Food and Drug Administration in America banned the use of Cyclamates due to the fact that when tested on lab rats, they developed Cancer. Although many countries still use it today.
- Saccharin was put into major production post banning of cyclamates, it has a bitter aftertaste unlike most artificial sweeteners. You will find it in many drinks, sweets, cookies, medications, and toothpaste to sweeten their flavors. Some products such as Coca-Cola’s Tab tried to make sure that this was not the case by adding some refined sugar to their drinks. In 1977, you will find that a company called The FDA was given permission to put a ban on the usage of saccharin too as a Carcinogen. A carcinogen is any chemical, or radiation which is a product directly involved in developing cancer.
Diet Soda and Heart risk
Diet soda maybe really good for the waistline, diabetics, athletes and so on, but studies regarding this product have found that there is a heart attack risk and a stroke risk associated with this product when you consume it every day. If you are hoping to lose weight then water would be a great substitute to Diet sodas. This study was conducted with the aid of 2,600 older adults over the period of ten years. It proved that 44% of the persons studied were more at risk of developing heart disease and stroke than the persons who did not drink the diet soda beverages. The studies also concluded that people who drank diet drinks whether it is soda or otherwise, did not stop at just the one diet drink; they would drink several in a day. I feel that this is rather alarming. I would say that if you had a sugar-free soda or diet soda addiction, then this is the time to change your habits. Is this not a reality check? The discoveries which were subsequently reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine said that it was not actually the drinks which were sugar-free to blame for these findings.
There have been arguments that say that the diet soda is not all to blame as studies into salt intake and other consumed foods. They just assumed that the health risks arose from the fact that over ten years these people drank the diet soda. Salt, obesity and certain foods all carry heart attack and stroke risks. There is an argument that Diet soda is being scapegoated in order to gain headlines and attract attention. The findings of the health complications may have happened to the studied persons anyway regardless of whether they drank the diet soda or not. It seems to be a desire, a need to capture breathtaking headlines and justify their own existence. Maybe it is the fact that these diet sodas are so sweet that they are causing an addiction to the sweetness, does the sugar addiction in general not cause health complications, not actually the diet soda? The study claimed that 44% of older adults were confirmed in their ten year follow up to have suffered some kind of vascular event. But, the argument goes against the grain saying that it is NOT the Diet soda causing these events. It is common place that older adults over the age of 65 years are more at risk of heart attack and stroke, regardless of whether they drink Diet soda on a daily basis or not. So this study seems to be losing foundation the more it is researched.
The results of the study should not be completely dismissed though, after all these are liquid confectionary or sweet if you like. As with anything sweet, or sugary, and even if it has the label ‘diet’, it should always be consumed with a level of moderation, the same as we treat alcohol. A little now and again does not hurt anyone, but a lot can kill.