Zero-sugar soda contains virtually no calories and no carbs, just like Miracle Noodles, so drinking it must be healthy...or is it?
On a sweltering 85-degree day in a high-rise apartment with no central air conditioning and no breeze coming in, the bottle of [NAME BRAND] Zero looked as inviting as a nugget of gold to a prospector.
I had just returned from a vacation and had a friend watching my place while I was away. Upon returning to my home, I opened the fridge to discover my friend had left several bottles of this diet soda.
Many people are aware of the fact that diet soda, although it contains no calories, can have a negative impact on health. Several studies such as this one in the journal, Nutrients, demonstrate an association between chronic diet soda consumption and metabolic disorders.
So I don’t make it a habit of drinking diet soda, much less any soda; perhaps one can a year. But I confess that I was powerless to exert any willpower against the stupor-inducing heat. Thus with a salivary, Pavlovian response kicking in, I grabbed a mason jar, filled it halfway with ice cubes and quenched my thirst with the diet soda.
But being a semi-obsessive health freak, I, to some degree, immediately regretted my decision of putting chemicals of unknown risk in my body. Within minutes, I was researching the ingredients in this bubbly beverage.
Let’s start with the first ingredient: carbonated water. No harm, right? Mmm, maybe not. That’s because research in the Journal of the American Dental Association suggests carbonated water is vastly more acidic than mountain-spring water.
The former’s pH was analyzed at roughly an acidic 5 while the latter averaged an alkaline 7.4. The difference between the two numeric values may not seem much but in actuality, a difference of 1.0 on the pH scale can be just as dramatic as the difference of 1.0 on the Richter scale.
A highly dietary acid load, research suggests, may be the root cause of metabolic diseases.
Next on the ingredients list is citric acid, which is generally deemed safe, but if you’re eating and drinking foods with a high acid load, citric acid may be the dietary equivalent of pouring fuel on the fire.
Two types of potassium are the next ingredients: citrate and benzoate. The former, says University of Michigan Medicine, may induce serious side effects such as irregular heartbeat and numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, or mouth. P-benzoate, meanwhile, is a preservative that again is “generally regarded as safe.” However, research in the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology says, “Evidence has suggested that a high intake of SB may link to attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in children.
Swimming with great white sharks is generally regarded as safe, provided that you are in a cage, but that doesn’t mean you should do it.
Aspartame is the artificial sweetener in the soda in question, and deserves being the subject of an entire article because of its potential to contribute to metabolic disorder. It’s also been associated with a high risk of cancer in rodents.
Another potassium-based ingredient is next: Acesulfame Potassium. This ingredient is controversial because some studies use the catchphrase that it’s generally regarded as safe. But other studies caution that high consumption could lead to toxicity and imparired cognitive function, at least in rodents.
Calcium Disodium EDTA is a preservative food additive that in small amounts is … you guessed it, generally regarded as safe. However, anecdotal reports of nausea, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches have been associated with the ingredient.
Finally, the last ingredient on the list (actually, it’s second to last) is “natural flavors.” Don’t be fooled by the label “natural” as the flavorings may include synthetic chemicals in the formulation.
There’s another potential problem with diet sodas: they may cause calcium to leach out of the bones, causing reduced bone density mass, concluded this study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Now can you see why, as a health-conscious nutrition writer, I experienced a tinge of guilt drinking diet soda. Next time, I’ll stick with water with a few ice cubes and a twist of lemon or lime...