For years, it seems, we have swallowed the advertising hype of the manufacturers and believed that drinking diet coke instead of regular coke can help us to maintain a healthy diet and enhance weight loss.
A new study by researchers at the University of Purdue suggests these claimed health benefits are a myth, and that regular consumption of diet coke, which contains artificial sweeteners, can significantly damage health and cause weight gain instead of the expected weight loss.
A report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which is based upon a 14 year study on the use of artificial sweeteners, explains that consumption of both regular and diet drinks increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
It is suggested that artificial sweeteners, which are many times sweeter than sugar, trick the body into believing that sugar has been consumed, which prompts the unnecessary release of insulin, a fat storage hormone, and this in turn increases the level of body fat. At the same time, it is claimed, artificial sweeteners slow down the metabolism, which results in reduced calorie burning.
Overall, the scientific evidence that diet drinks may be a cause of obesity rather than part of the solution seems to be growing.
Other problems associated with diet drinks
Unfortunately obesity and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes are not the only potential adverse effects upon health. According to a study conducted by Harvard University, diet drinks can also contribute to a decline in kidney function.
The study identified deterioration in women who consume two or more diet drinks each day. Again, the source of this problem appears to be the high levels of artificial sweetener in these products.
Less serious perhaps is the fact that using diet coke as a mixer with spirits such as vodka increases both the onset and the level of drunkenness. This is apparently because sugar-free mixers allow alcohol to enter the bloodstream more quickly than sugar-sweetened mixers. These antisocial effects of diet coke have recently been explained by Australian researchers.
As long ago as 1999 researchers at Sheffield University identified the worrying presence in many diet drinks (though not in regular Coke or Pepsi) of mould inhibitors which were used as preservatives.
According to the researchers, these preservatives could severely damage the DNA. Some, though not all manufacturers took note, replacing one preservative with another – potassium benzoate. This preservative has itself been linked to the development of allergies and asthma.
Surely the time has come for us gullible consumers to change our inaccurate perceptions of diet drinks and see them for what they are:
Artificially sweetened products which, rather than offering a healthier alternative to the regular sugar-sweetened drinks, have the potential to seriously damage our health as well as contributing to the obesity problem.