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4 Health Side Effects of Diet Soda

Feb 23, 2010

Diet soda is the constant companion of dieters everywhere, who feel that they're getting a bargain by getting flavor and hydration, all for zero calories. While diet soda may be free of calories, it's not free of health side effects. Let's look at a few of the risks associated with diet soda.

1. Kidney Damage

A 2009 Nurses' Health Study of 3,256 women found a 30% drop in level of kidney function for participants who drank 2 or more servings of diet pop daily. This means that those who drank at least 2 cans, bottles or glasses of diet drinks daily had 30% less kidney blood filtering ability than those who drank regular sodas or other drinks. The kidney function decline was noted even when consideration was made of other factors which may have affected participants, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Why does diet soda harm the kidneys? Evidence is still coming in, but it's thought that the sweeteners used in diet soda may scar kidney tissue over time.

2. Weight Gain

Perhaps surprising, but true: studies have tied diet soda consumption to an increased risk of obesity. In fact, a 2005 University of Texas Health Science Center study found a 57.1% risk of obesity for those drinking more than two daily servings of diet pop.

How could a zero-calorie drink raise your risk of obesity? Researchers have a few theories. Some people may feel that drinking diet soda gives them a "free pass" to eat more foods that may not be so low in calories, thereby leading to weight gain. Another theory posits that the sweet taste of diet pop alerts our digestive system that high-calorie foods are coming. When they don't, our bodies are confused and our appetite increases in anticipation of the food it's expecting.

3. Tooth Enamel Damage

Soda is hard on tooth enamel, with the sugar and acid being the most problematic ingredients. Diet soda eliminates the sugar, but not the acid content of pop. Most of us are familiar enough with acid that we can imagine its impact on our tooth enamel, which is the main barrier our teeth have against decay.

Phosphoric acid is found in many diet sodas, and its purpose is to promote carbonation. But it also erodes tooth enamel. Check your favorite diet drink to see whether it contains phosphoric acid; generally, darker colas are more likely to contain it than lighter diet drinks.

Citric acid is another ingredient added to many diet sodas in order to preserve carbonation. Like phosphoric acid, it eats away at your tooth enamel.

If you can't give up your diet soda habit, try sipping it through a straw in order to reduce its contact with your teeth.

4. Bone Loss

Drinking diet soda can also lead to bone loss. This is because the phosphoric acid in the soda causes calcium in your bloodstream to be excreted more quickly than normal through urine. Your bones then give up some of their calcium in order to keep the bloodstream calcium level constant.

Replacing diet sodas with healthier drinks is a wise decision. You can use FitDay to track your beverage intake.

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