Diet Sodas: Healthy or not?

Is that even worth asking? Shouldn’t it be clear enough that taking out the sugar off sodas, makes it the perfect healthy alternative? Well, let’s find out.

What is Diet soda?

Diet soda

Diet sodas are carbonated beverages. (Aka bubbly!). Instead of sugar, they are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, cyclamate, saccharin or sucralose. Almost every popular sugar-sweetened beverage on the market has a “light” or a “diet” version… Diet; Coke, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero, etc. These drinks are calorie free, which technically should help people with weight loss and prevent sugar-related diseases like metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

However, the evidence for these beverages having any beneficial use is completely nonexistent.

Creating a diet soda has long been of interest to food manufacturers and consumers, since the sugar in regular soda carries many calories with no nutritional value and increases the risk of cavities. In theory, since sugar-sweetened sodas provide such a huge number of calories to our diet, one would think that replacing these sugars with a non-caloric sweetener would result in some major weight loss and health changes. 

They’ve changed all right: since the introduction of non-caloric sweeteners, weight gain has increased and health has arguably diminished.

What you need to know before having your next Diet soda:

Yes, it does not contain sugar. But, it has a bunch of other ingredients that you should be aware of, before deciding to make it a part of your lifestyle.

According to Ryan Andrews – Precision nutrition head coach- : 

All diet sodas contain carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid and caffeine. We’ll take them one by one.


This is water dissolved with carbon dioxide and there you go, you have carbonic acid. It is the ingredient that makes the drink fizzy. While it doesn’t do much for improving health, it’s great for getting rid of coffee stains.


Without this, cola wouldn’t be brown. Caramel color is the most commonly consumed food coloring ingredient in the world. It provides no flavor, only color. It’s produced by heating carbohydrates (like fructose, dextrose, or invert sugar) with a food-grade acid (like sulfuric, phosphoric, or citric) to break the sugar bonds. Think of caramel color as burnt sugar.

Negative health consequences of caramel color are unlikely as long as someone doesn’t consume more than 200 mg/kg of body weight. Still, there is the potential of an allergic reaction, but that comes with many food ingredients.


Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that’s composed of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and a methyl ester, is a chemical, not a naturally occurring compound. It’s the most popular sweetener in the U.S. food industry (as of 2007). With more than 90 countries having approved aspartame, its use is widespread. 

Aspartame exceeds table sugar sweetness by 200 times. Since it still contains 4 calories per gram (as does table sugar), this intense sweetness allows much less of it to be used in diet sodas. The major vehicle for aspartame consumption is diet soda. Aspartame has 92 side effects listed by the FDA and use by pregnant women and young children is discouraged. You’d probably have the same question: “if it’s not safe enough for the pregnant mom down the street, is it safe enough for everyone else?”


This acid is sour taste and slows the growth of mold and bacteria. It’s a bit different from straight  phosphorus as it binds with magnesium and calcium in the digestive tract to form salts that aren’t absorbed. This may lead to a decline in the materials needed for bone deposition. So as you might assume, studies have associated phosphoric acid consumption to a lower bone density. Still, other studies have found that phosphoric acid has no impact on calcium excretion.

Diet colas, which generally contain phosphoric acid (non-colas usually don’t), have also been linked to kidney disease and kidney stones. Two or more colas per day more than doubled the incidence of kidney disease in one study; non-colas didn’t have the association. While phosphoric acid doesn’t do much to improve our health, it’s exceptional for removing rust from iron and steel tools.


This stuff is a preservative and discourages the growth of yeast, mold and bacteria. It has minimal taste and risk for toxicity. Unfortunately, along with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), potassium benzoate can form benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen. While potassium benzoate doesn’t do much to improve our health, it’s great for pyrotechnic whistle noises in fireworks.


Well, the magical natural flavor used to be saskra root in diet coke, but that plant is now extinct. With that being said, natural flavors can include countless items.


More than half of all citric acid is produced in China. It acts as a preservative and provides a sour taste. Too much of it can erode tooth enamel (the outer white layer of the tooth) While citric acid doesn’t do much to improve our health, it’s great as an additive in bathroom cleaners.


Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world and occurs naturally among several plants such as coffee bean, kola nut, tea leaf, and cacao seed. Some compounds in Caffeine act as blockers for adenosine. Adenosine acts as the “brakes” in the central nervous system. So when its effects are blocked (by caffeine), stimulation occurs.

Caffeine is actually one of the most widely studied, and most effective, ergogenic acids on the planet. However, its purpose in diet soda is likely for immediate stimulation and it offers the potential for dependence.


All of the research studies done on diet sodas discovered that most of the people who drink it have health issues (Metabolic syndrome, Diabetes type 2, depression and obesity). Nevertheless many of the studies are so-called epidemiological studies, which cannot prove that diet drinks caused anything. Such studies can only show an association. So the health problems might be caused by other factors not taken into consideration.

Whether diet soda can cause harm or not has yet to be proven in controlled trials, but it is clear that there is a strong statistical association between diet soda and disease.


I would recommend diet sodas as a transition, if you are trying to quit regular sodas. That would be a smart move! Other than this, it is better to minimize it and to replace it by fresh smoothies, juices and water. After all, would you like to be consuming all of these chemicals listed above on a daily basis?