Dangers of Diet Soda


Is Diet Soda Hazardous?



This is a question I see often at my office and usually I am the one asking it.  I often encounter patients whose muscle tone is more “tight” than normal. And not just in a particular region, but all over their body. Their calves, shoulders, forearms, everything is tight and contracted.  This is when I ask if they have been drinking diet soda, and the answer is often “YES.”



This is just one symptom which lead us to investigate the research behind the dangers of diet sodas and we found quite a bit of research to push you to avoid it. Not only does it make you more prone to injury, but it damages your stomach, makes you more prone to ulcers, and inhibits proper drug reactions with any medicines you might be taking.



The Basics: Diet soda contains chemicals that have a sweet flavor and no calories. Most commonly Aspartame, Cyclamates, Saccarin, Sucralose, and Acesulfame potassium, these fake-sugars infest most of our man made diet or low sugar options. As athletes, we don’t need to watch our sugar intake unless we have a diet high in sugar. We trade these natural sugars for harsh chemicals that our bodies don’t know what to do with.


So here’s the information we found out about the stuff:


1. Diet Soda Can Make You Fat



For those drinking diet soda to decrease their weight, think again. Studies show that drinking these diet drinks can actually lead to weight gain. Animal studies in cattle and rats suggest that artificial sweeteners cause body weight gain, theoretically because of a faulty insulin response [1]. The studies draw a correlation with added “need” for calories with these sugar-free chemicals. Rats given sweeteners have steadily increased caloric intake, increased body weight, and increased adiposity (fatness). An additional study showed that adding saccharin to the food of calves also increased their body weight [2].


So why do we ingest it? Probably sales, consumerism, and the idea that we can cheat elsewhere and save calories on this drink. Oh, don’t worry…there are plenty of additional research to scare the heck out of you about drinking diet sodas:




2. Diet Soda Increases Stroke/Heart attack Risks


Diet Sodas increase your cardiovascular risks. As reported by ABC News and presented at the American Stroke and International Stroke Conference, diet soda can cause heart and brain injuries as well [3]. According to a study of more than 2,500 people who drank diet soda daily, their risks increased by 61% as compared to those who drank no soda, even when accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and calories consumed per day.




3. Diet Soda can cause Ulcers and Intestinal Issues



A highly chlorinated molecule of  study by Duke University studied the effect of Splenda (Sucralose) on rats.  The study came back with the evidence that this modified sugar kills beneficial gut bacteria and promotes unhealthy bacterial growth. After 12 weeks of treatmenting the rats with sucralose, the numbers of total anaerobes, bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, Bacteroides, clostridia, and total aerobic bacteria were significantly decreased. Another interesting finding was that Sucralose did not also kill enterobacteria, which are the main cause of ulcers. Finally, after dosing these animals and testing them, they took 12 weeks off and re-tested them to find that the amount of healthy gut bacteria continued to be well below normal.  So if you drink diet soda even during the off season, it can effect your gut (which most endurane athletes find to be their biggest issue)




4. Diet Soda Causes Increased Drug Interactions



Splenda studies also show that concurrent use of diet sodas can change the way drugs are absorbed through the stomach lining.  Evidence indicates that a 12-wk administration of Splenda exerted numerous adverse effects, including (1) reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, (2) increased fecal pH, and (3) enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of orally administered drugs.



Ok, so what does this all mean?  Sugar is ok in moderation.

Training aside, you shouldn’t be intaking too much man made foods or sugars. Sugars increase your risks of diabetes because longterm high sugar levels in your bIf you are training long hours or are going for a 30+ minute ride,its ok to drink real sugar as it replenishes the glycogen or sugar stores in your tissues. The glycogen-window might just be your new best friend.


1. Swithers SE, Davidson TL. A role for sweet taste: calorie predictive relations in energy regulation by rats. Behav Neurosci. 2008 Feb;122(1):161-73.

2. McMeniman JP, Rivera JD, Schlegel P, Rounds W, Galyean ML. Effects of an artificial sweetener on health, performance, and dietary preference of feedlot cattle. J Anim Sci. 2006 Sep;84(9):2491-500.

3. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/HeartHealth/diet-soda-linked-heart-attack-stroke-risk/story?id=12868269



  • http://davemccollum.com/ Dave McCollum

    What about using a sweetener that comes from Stevia leaves? This is a more natural substance than Aspartame or Sucralose. Would the body be able to process this natural zero calorie sweetener more than the artificial ones? 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the question! I am glad someone asked it, Stevia is a natural sweetener from the leaves of plants and is not a chemical that has been tested in these trials. Overall, I have found that it is non-toxic and not as hazardous as these other non-natural forms of sweeteners, which in design are only man-made-chemicals. Also, Xylitol is a sweetener that is in many sports drinks as it is known to decrease the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth (and thus cavities). 

    Both Stevia and Xylitol are ok in our book!

  • Jeff O’Reilly

    I had a friend many years ago who told me how she lost one-and-a-half kidneys. She drank a mega-cup (?32oz?48oz?) of soda every day for several years. Her kidneys worked hard to clean impurities out of her blood. Since blood doesn’t normally contain carbonated water, her kidneys collected as much of it as it could.
    I’m no doctor, so I don’t know how this story sounds. All I know is she gets to survive the rest of her life on half a kidney, and her surgeon told her it was the carbonated water.
    While you are commenting on artificial sweeteners, it should also be mentioned that plain ol’ carbonated water kills kidney cells. Our rejuvenating abilities allows us to drink lots of carbonation and alcohol, killing quite a few kidney, liver, and brain cells and never notice the difference. But people need to realize that if they consume a greater volume of carbonated beverages (including beer) than water-based, they are a good candidate for problems over time.

  • http://lifesportchiro.com/2012/05/table-of-contents/ LifeSport Chiropractic | Table Of Contents

    [...] -Dangers of Diet Soda [...]

  • Revend

    Diet soda is not good for health. It has many harmful effects on our health. We should avoid to drink diet soda. you have shared wonderful information. Everyone should read this post.

  • Dr. Lisa

    Thank you so much for your comment! I am glad to see that it is going to good use and that you agree.

    Best of health!

    -Dr. L

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