Are Diet Sodas a Healthy Choice?

Content by: Guy Lawrence

are diet sodas healthy

“They may be free of calories but not of consequences.” – Professor Helen Hazuda speaking on diet soda.

After knocking the wind out of my mates sails regarding his healthy fruit salad and apple juice (click here if you’ve no idea what I’m on about), the next topic that came up on the radar was his diet soft drink. You see, the next logical step for my friend to take whilst on his weight loss plan was to be drinking the ‘diet’ stuff instead of  ‘normal’ stuff.

I mean, if a soft drink has the word ‘diet’, ‘sugar free’ or ‘low cal’ etc… It’s got to be healthy for you right?

His new found enthusiasm for his health and weight loss plan had already taken a dent regarding fruit and sugar, so I understood the switch to sugar free soft drinks. After he finished guzzling down his cold can on a sunny day I said one word to him… Aspartame.

In a nutshell, this was my response…

The real thing?

I’m a big believer that the answer lies within the questions we ask ourselves. Ask a better question and you usually get a better answer. So the questions I asked my friend was this…

Did you know that your zero calorie, sugar free, diet soft drink that you’ve just guzzled, contains an artificial sweetener called aspartame?

Aspartame is a chemical that is used as an artificial sweetener (more on this in a sec’)… Now here’s a real kicker of a question you need to ask yourself –

Did you know that there is no evidence to suggest that using artificial sweeteners like aspartame helps anyone lose weight?

In fact, there’s compelling evidence that the use of aspartame and artificial sweeteners contribute to weight gain. Hello!!!

A 10 year study by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio showed that those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500% greater increase in waist size!

Now something to seriously think about is this – Your waist line is a powerful indicator of a build-up of visceral fat, a dangerous type of fat around your internal organs that is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. I believe your waistline is a much better indicator of heart risks than BMI (body mass index).

So do you think a diet soft drink is really worth drinking if it actually increases your waistline?

And to add insult to injury, there are compelling studies that it’s very detrimental to your health too.

Even if you are a skeptic, did you know the approval of the artificial sweetener aspartame (E951) is the most contested in FDA history?… Why is this?

As he stared at his empty can he just finished guzzling, I thought I’d pitch him one more question just to make him feel extra special!

If you are genuinely trying to improve your health, aren’t you better off avoiding diet soft drinks and aspartame – especially if safety concerns exist?

After grilling my mate with questions, I went on to explain a little more about artificial sweetness and aspartame.

So what is Aspartame anyway?

Foods containing Aspartame

Simply put, Aspartame is a chemical substance that is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) and contains very few calories when used. It’s now used in over 6000 products with many being in ‘diet’ food and beverages, from weight loss powders to chewing gum.

There are other artificial sweeteners on the market along with aspartame (Nutrasweet) – Sucralose (Splenda), Neotame (made with aspartame), Saccaharine (Sweet-n-Low), Acesulfame-K (Sunnette) to name a few. Even though aspartame is probably the most commonly used, the others are worth noting and avoiding. I certainly do!

Artificial sweeteners Nutrasweet Spenda Sweet and Low

Being low calorie, this makes it very attractive for manufactures when profit above everything else is a priority. And just like sugar it’s everywhere!

I’ve been working in the health industry for a long time and along with many products, I seriously struggled to find a protein supplement that didn’t contain some form of artificial sweetener and flavouring. This is why our 180 Superfood Protein Blend came to market.

Accidental Discovery

I don’t really hold much confidence in the chemical substances used in food and beverages that are accidentally discovered in a laboratory.

On Aspartames discovery back in 1965 –

‘…a chemist working for G.D. Searle & Company. Schlatter had synthesized Aspartame in the course of producing an anti ulcer drug candidate. He accidentally discovered its sweet taste when he licked his finger, which had become contaminated with aspartame, to lift up a piece of paper.’ – Wikipedia

On the discovery of Sucralose back in 1976 –

Ok. Are you sitting down for this next one?

‘…the researchers who developed Sucralose, also known as Splenda, originally started out in an attempt to create an insecticide. (Yes, you read that right.) An assistant who was asked to test the compound mistakenly thought he was being asked to taste it…’Primal Body, Primal Mind

‘…While researching ways to use Sucrose as a chemical intermediate in non-traditional areas, Phadnis was told to test a chlorinated sugar compound. Phadnis thought that Hough asked him to taste it, so he did.[3] He found the compound to be exceptionally sweet…’ – Wikipedia

Whether you believe the above quotes or not, I think it would be hard to hold any regard for these substances and if they are likely to be at all healthy to consume.

Are there any side effects of artificial sweeteners?

Good question! Type the above the sentence into Google and see what comes up… It’s quite incredible! There’s a big list!

Artificial Sweeteners

Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can reduce the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by up to 50%!

This is not a good thing! A healthy gut is essential for overall health, well being and weight management. We regularly connect with world experts on the topic of gut health on our weekly podcast, this conversation with Dr Michael Ruscio was a real eye opener.  As far as I’m concerned, if your food contains chemicals that you can’t pronounce or don’t recognise then reconsider eating it in the first place!

The thing that really gets to me is the marketing of these products. The belief is created that if you are to consume these products through artificially sweetened food and beverages, you are helping weight loss/management. If you believe this then you have been misled.

And sadly switching to your ‘normal’ sodas (I use that term loosely) and concentrated juices isn’t a great option either as they are loaded with sugar. The Sydney Morning Herald released this article recently about children’s soft drinks related to disease. What is the world coming to…


Stevia leafsAn entirely safe sugar substitute to use is Stevia (taken from a leaf), and has no caloric or carbohydrate value. Stevia has been used by primitive South American cultures for centuries. Just make sure you stick to pure Stevia.

And as for diet sodas? If you care about your health avoid them! You can’t beat good ol’ fashioned water. If you need to sweeten it up try squeezing a little lemon. There are also some great coconut waters available at the moment, just make sure they are 100% coconut water and don’t have any added sugar. Alternatively you could experiment with Kombucha, the gut-friendly soft drink, we have a beginners guide to making kombucha here.

I’m now happy to say my mate has stopped drinking diet sodas!

Guy Lawrence

This article is brought to you by Guy Lawrence. Guy is a qualified fitness trainer with over 10 years of experience in the health industry. Guy worked at the UTS Fitness Centre in Sydney Australia where he specialised in exercise nutrition and obtained his Certificate in Exercise Nutrition and Certified... Read More

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11 Replies to “Are Diet Sodas a Healthy Choice?”
Tarryne says:

This is brilliant! I was talking about this exact thing to a client over the weekend and was ranting about it again last night. Soda is the devil. full stop.


180nps says:

Thanks Tarryne! Enjoyed writting this one 🙂 It just amazes me people drink it!

Kat says:

Is there a reason why Stevia has not been used as a natural sugar substitute in these products?

180nps says:

Good question Kat. Simply put it comes down to this – $$$

A good Stevia is way more expensive than an artifical sweetner to produce.

Kylie Ryan says:

Another great blog post Guy. There are too many potential negative side effects that link to aspartame to even mention without sounding sensationalist. I’ll be sharing this one with my clients, Thanks!

180nps says:

I couldn’t agree more Kylie… Even the biggest sceptic would have to question aspartame. But sadly if it has the word ‘diet’ on it etc people will drink it!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing too!

Luella says:

Interesting read on Aspartame AKA Runsfeld’s disease:

Sharon leiser says:

I have been using xylitol also a natural sweetener
Any thoughts about this

180nps says:

Hey Sharon… Don’t really know much about Xylitol as the only natural sweetener I use is Stevia. But I will ask a few of the Naturopaths and get their opinion on it and see what their thought are.

David says:

From the research I have done, I can’t draw a direct link from artificial sweeteners to an increase in weight, waist size, or body fat. I believe that artificial sweeteners (AS) link to weight gain is a psychological issue. I read that AS can cause an increased desire for sugar-sweetened food later in the day. In my opinion, the problem is that consumers of AS believe that since they cut out the sugar with their lunch-time diet beverage, then they can make room at other times during the day for candy or potato chips, or whatever other fatty/sweet food they crave. When you combine that feeling with a craving for sweets, people with little willpower will end up over-eating which causes weight gain, and lets face it, if you are trying to cut back on your weight by just drinking diet beverages, you probably aren’t that dedicated to begin with. In short, I believe that AS contributes to people’s weight gain indirectly through their psychological response and lack of willpower. I don’t believe that it is a direct result of AS consumption as your post seems to suggest.

Comments are closed.