We all probably have one person in our lives that is helplessly addicted to diet cola. They guzzle down several a day, drinking more frequently than water. If you don't know anyone like this, chances are that person may be you.
But what's the harm? It has no calories and it's high in caffeine so it gives you a nice energetic kick. Hell, some of the most fit-looking people you know may be avid diet cola drinkers.
The truth is that while it may not show on your waistline, diet drinks full of artificial sweeteners can lead to a bevy of negative neurological and physiological effects.
The Brain-Draining Effects of Diet Cola
It has long been believed that fat was the biggest threat to our health and happiness. It was said that fat led to higher cholesterol, worsening blood pressure and, increased weight gain.
Evidence has been mounting, however, that this was a lie propagated by the sugar industry, and that sugar itself was public enemy #1.
Because of this new knowledge, the market for drinks without sugar has exploded, and for many diet colas have taken the place of traditional sodas in their diets.
Unfortunately, this sugarless, 0-calorie trade-off comes with its own sinister drawbacks. We'll explain a few below.
Rapid Brain Aging
A study published in the medical journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, found that those who frequently drank sugary drinks - at least one a day - during their lifetimes, had brains that looked older than they should have looked. Surprisingly, the same held true for those that drank diet cola.
Among this group, researchers found that their brains were smaller in overall volume, had poor episodic memory, and also had a smaller hippocampus. These are all pre-emptive symptoms of the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.
Increased Chance of Stroke
A separate study, published in Stroke, determined that there was no correlation between those that drank sugary drinks and experienced stroke and dementia. However, the study did find that diet colas increased one's chances of stroke and dementia by 300%.
In this regard, diet drinks are actually worse than sugary drinks when it comes to long-term mental health.
Diet sodas simply don't make sense where there are so many better drink options on the market.
Increased Chance of Depression
Diet sodas not only have harmful long-term effects but have potentially damaging mental health hazards in the short-term as well.
In a study of over 250,000+ adults, scientists found that diet soda consumption was correlated to a 30% higher risk of developing depression.
A similar correlation was found among those that drank naturally sugary drinks as well, but the correlation was much lower.
Scientists say that when you give your body the artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks, it teases your body by pretending to give it real sugar. Because of thi,s your body doesn't know how to respond to this stimulus.
If you give your body fake sugar with enough frequency, your body will forget how to respond when it receives real sugar from healthful sources, like fruit.
Because of this, your body's physiology changes. So when you intake real sugar, your body doesn't release the hormones required to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
Increased Weight Gain
Weight loss has a simple formula. Burn more calories than you consume and you lose weight. In this regard, diet sodas should be a perfect option. They have no calories!
But there are other things to consider. The same study as the one cited above has found that diet colas have more drawbacks than benefits in this arena.
Sugar is highly addictive. In our caveman days, natural sources of sugar were hard to find, and thanks to its calorie-density, our body's craved sources of sugar.
This is still true today, but our food environment has changed. These days, it is far too easy to find sugar to eat, and thusly is far too easy to over-indulge.
Drinks with artificial sugars should be a remedy to this issue, but it turns out that sweet-tasting foods and drinks (even if it's artificial) just make you crave sweetness even more. Diet drinks have you perpetually chasing that sugar-high.
So while diet drinks themselves may not have calories, they psychologically encourage the consumption of foods and drinks that are high in real sugar and calories.
This same study has shown that those that consume artificial sweeteners actually put on more weight more frequently than those that don't consumer fake sugars.
Increased Chance of Heart Disease and Diabetes
Even those that frequently drank diet sodas and stayed within a healthy weight range tended to still have an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The long-term effects of this artificial sweetener - aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin are the big ones - are still largely unknown, but many of them are made from sources we know to be damaging. Saccharin, for example, is a derivative of tar, which famously is one of the damaging ingredients in cigarettes.
The Moral of The Story
These days, it seems like nearly everything we consume can have adverse effects on our health. Cigarettes give you cancer, red meat gives you Alzheimer's, carbohydrates make you fat, etc. Keeping up with all of the scientific developments can be discouraging.
But the truth is that the conventional wisdom is still true: anything in excess can be bad for you.
So we're not saying you should ditch the diet cola altogether. A few drinks here and there likely won't have deleterious effects on your health. If you're daily Diet Coke drink, though, you should probably cut back.
To kick your diet cola habit, consider trying our Xing Energy Drinks, which are made with real cane sugar and natural caffeine.
It probably tastes better than your Diet Coke anyway.