The Dangers of Sugar-Free Sodas

Millions of Americans have switched to diet soft drinks in an effort to avoid the massive calorie content of regular sodas. While they may be lower in sugar, diet drinks are still a bad dietary choice and they have been linked to weight gain, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, migraines and other health problems. Many medical experts believe that even one a day may be too many.

A recent study conducted by the French National Institute of Health and Research followed 66,000 women for 14 years. The researchers concluded that the risk for developing type-2 diabetes was significantly higher for women who drank only diet beverages. The link to diabetes may be due to the fact that diet soda contributes to the development of metabolic syndrome, which is a precursor to diabetes. A study reported in the Diabetes Care Journal found that consuming more than one diet soda per day could increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by as much as 36 percent.

A study conducted at the University of Texas found that diet soda increases a person's risk of becoming overweight by 65 percent. Studies have shown that the artificial sweeteners used in soft drinks can induce carbohydrate cravings. Some researchers believe that the low-calorie content of diet drinks may lead people to give themselves "permission" to splurge on junk foods (like your co-worker who eats a 12-ounce candy bar and chases it with diet soda).

According to the American Heart Association, drinking diet drinks is also linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly among those who consume more than one diet soda per day. A study conducted at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine reported a 61 percent increase in vascular disease risks in people who consume diet drinks on a regular basis.

Diet sodas are also linked to headaches, especially migraines. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in many mainstream soft drinks, is a significant headache trigger in at least 10 percent of migraine patients. Studies show that aspartame increases both the frequency and intensity of migraines. Many researchers believe the aspartame connection springs from the fact that food allergies are a major factor in migraine episodes. Aspartame has also been linked to rashes, ringing ears, depression and insomnia.

The United States has the dubious distinction of being the world's leader in soft drink consumption, with the average American drinking 150 quarts per year. In an effort to reduce soft drink consumption among young people, many school systems across the country have banned soft drink sales on campus and several states have developed legislation to enact excise taxes on carbonated sodas. The hope is that the taxes would reduce consumption and the revenue from the taxes would be earmarked for disease prevention programs, especially in low-income communities.

The bottom line is that soft drinks, whether they contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, have no place in a healthy diet plan. Opt instead for water flavored with lemon or a refreshing glass of herbal iced tea. Find a healthy alternative that works for you so you and your family can avoid the well-documented health hazards associated with diet sodas.

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