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There are hardcore proponents for both sides of the age old debate between diet and regular soda. Let's break down the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Soda is practically everywhere. It tastes great and it may even give you a boost of extra energy. Doctors don't particularly recommend drinking it because it has absolutely no nutritional value, but since happiness is also important, they generally say drinking an occasional soda is okay. Now, you may be wondering, is it healthier to drink a regular soda or a diet soda? Well, the answer is not as clear-cut as you might hope, because experts don't always agree. In addition, the answer to the diet vs. regular soda debate also depends on certain health conditions. Here we will break down the pros and cons of regular and diet sodas, and help you make your own decision on which to drink.
Pros and Cons of Regular Soda
The main - and perhaps only - advantage of drinking regular soda is that it tastes great without the strange aftertaste found in diet sodas. It is also the preferred soda choice for people who want to avoid drinking the artificial sugar substitutes found in diet sodas. Regular soda contains a lot of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, both of which are high in calories. One can of regular soda averages about 150 calories. Now drinking these calories won't necessarily make you fat. It takes about 3,500 excess calories to put on one pound to your weight, so if you don't drink a lot of soda and you eat a pretty good diet otherwise, you shouldn't see any weight gain. If you drink a lot of soda, however, you might start running into weight problems with all the excess calories adding up. Excess weight may increase your chances of developing diabetes and cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, which is why they recommend against drinking sugary sodas because they increase your chance of weight gain. Your dentist may be the biggest voice against regular soda and all other sugary drinks, because sugar can lead to tooth decay. If you regularly drink soda and other sugary drinks in spite of your dentist's advice, make sure to brush your teeth afterwards to minimize the chances of tooth decay.
Pros and Cons of Diet Soda
The main advantages of diet soda is that it doesn't cause tooth decay and it has little to no calories. Yet, that does not necessarily mean drinking it won't lead to weight gain. Researchers disagree on the effect artificial sugar substitutes have on the body, but some research suggests that it can make you more hungry, causing you to eat more and thus promoting weight gain. Researchers at Purdue University found that artificial sugar substitutes increased appetite and promoted weight gain. So, if you are trying to lose weight, diet soda may not be a good alternative to regular soda. Another issue researchers disagree on is the safety of artificial sugar substitutes. While the FDA has approved the artificial sugar substitutes found in diet sodas, some scientists are not so convinced of the safety of these substitutes. Artificial sugar substitutes may increase the risk of or cause joint inflammation, neurological problems, cancer and metabolic problems, according to some research. Kirtida R. Tandel, a researcher at the Government Medical College in Gujarat, India, reviewed some of these scientific studies and came to the conclusion that more research is warranted to determine the safety of artificial sugar substitutes.
Which One Should You Drink?
Okay, so you have you read this article and still aren't sure which type of soda to drink? Well, we warned you that the answer wasn't clear-cut. But, we can give you a little help. If you are diabetic or have a high risk of diabetes, drink diet soda. If the idea that some researchers are uncertain about the safety of artificial sugar substitutes, drink regular soda. If you are pregnant, you should probably drink regular soda. Even though the FDA has approved the use of artificial sugar substitutes during pregnancy, research has brought up some questions on their safety - especially the safety of saccharin - during pregnancy. For the rest of you, drink either one, just do it in moderation. The occasional soda, whether sugar sweetened or artificially sweetened, won't harm your health or general wellness.
- American Cancer Society: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and the Link Between Obesity and Cancer
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- J Pharmacol Pharmacother, 2(4): 236-243; Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits; Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College, Surat, Gujarat, India; Kirtida R. Tandel; 2011
- Behavioral Neuroscience 122(1):161-73. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.122.1.161; A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats; Purdue University; Swithers SE, Davidson TL; 2008
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center: Artificial Sweeteners: A Sweet Treat or Scary Side Effects?
- American Diabetes Association: What Can I Drink?
- American Pregnancy Association: Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy Photo Credit: daniandgeorge via Flickr.