Diet sodas aren't the healthy choice many drinkers believe - DatelineCarolina

Diet sodas aren't the healthy choice many drinkers believe

By: Madeline Mahon

     The year 2013 was a challenging one for the U.S. Beverage Business, according to Beverage Digest; total sales of soda fell 3 percent to 8.9 billion cases. This is the ninth straight year of decline and the lowest sales figures posted since 1995.  The website MSN Healthy Living reports soda is the single biggest source of calories for Americans, and the average American consumes two cans every day.

     A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found children's consumption of diet soda has more than doubled over the last decade, and among adults, consumption has grown almost 25 percent.

     Many Diet Coke drinkers believe they are making a healthy choice when choosing diet over regular soda, when in fact, the opposite may be true. A 2013 study by researchers at Purdue University suggests drinking diet soda may not only be as bad for your health as the regular stuff, but it may contribute to rapid weight gain.

     The researchers found that the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages like diet soda is also associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, just like with regular soda.

     Columbia school teacher and USC graduate, Andrea Lane has been battling an addiction to Diet Coke for 22 years.

     "I started drinking Diet Coke I would say as soon as I was able to when I was a toddler," Lane says.

Andrea has struggled to quit for years, but began making progress this January.

     "Quitting for me means that I decreased the amount so like now I try to do one to two cans a week or one to two orders of it or bottles," she says.

      The website Alternative Medicine says data suggests artificial sweeteners in diet drinks may actually increase sugar cravings and encourage poor food choices. Registered Dietitian Kathleen Mercer says people who drink diet sodas tend to consume more calories in a day.

     "While you may be drinking fewer calories, you might find yourself craving carbohydrates and sweets," Mercer says.

     Researchers say aspartame is the ingredient in diet sodas that makes the brain think what is being consumed is sweet. This triggers the body to start craving sweet things. The body is tricked into thinking that it is consuming real food and sugar even though it isn't, which could lead to metabolic confusion and over consumption.

     They say artificial sweeteners are hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar. They trick your metabolism into thinking sugar is on its way which causes the body to pump out insulin, which lays down more belly fat. The body's metabolism becomes confused and slows; resulting in fewer calories burned every day.

     Andrea says she physically feels a lot better since she reduced her intake of diet sodas.

     "I can just tell that it just totally affects by body in a way that I never noticed before," Lane says.

     Industry critics have pointed to the soda industry as contributing to the United State's obesity epidemic and growing health concerns among consumers have hurt sales.  A leading beverage industry newsletter says Americans cut back on drinking carbonated soft drinks again last year, soda sales reached their lowest levels in nearly two decades.

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