Diet sodas are low-calorie alternatives to regular sodas made from either high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar. Reducing refined sugars in your diet is a healthy decision, but the artificial sweeteners and phosphates in diet sodas can still contribute to kidney stones, dysfunction and pain. On the other hand, there is some evidence that diet sodas high in citric and malic acids may help to dissolve kidney stones and reduce symptoms. In general, healthy hydration should be maintained by consuming lots of purified water and moderate amounts of fresh fruit and vegetable juices, while reducing all types of sodas and beverages high in caffeine.
Low-calorie foods and beverages should not be automatically considered healthy or even neutral dietary choices. Although an excess consumption of calories not balanced by appropriate physical activity greatly reduces your risk of obesity, there are numerous chemicals found in low-calorie or no-calorie foods and beverages that are linked to disease conditions. Most diet sodas are high in phosphorus, sodium and either aspartame or Splenda, which can all cause imbalances in your body.
All soda pop contains some phosphate, but the highest percentages exist in dark colas, including diet varieties, according to “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach” by Gordon Wardlaw. Consumption of phosphate-based soda is linked to kidney stone formation because it mobilizes minerals such as calcium and magnesium from your bones into your blood and other body fluids. Minerals in your urine are filtered out by your kidneys, and excessive amounts can collect or mineralize into kidney stones. Kidney stones do not necessarily cause kidney pain initially, but they will eventually as kidney function is reduced. Passing a kidney stone, especially one that is broken and sharp-edged, can cause excruciating pain in your low back, pelvis and abdomen.
High sodium intake has been linked to progressive kidney decline by a variety of studies. According to the book “Nutritional Sciences” by Michelle McGuire, diet sodas typically contain high amounts of sodium, usually more than their regular sugar-based varieties. Sodium chloride, the main compound within table salt, is toxic to your kidneys and blood vessels in large doses, and it disrupts fluid balance in your body, often leading to edema and swelling in the lower legs and feet. Toxicity can lead to kidney damage, or nephritis, which is characterized by inflammation and pain.
According to a ScienceDaily.com article, the American Society of Nephrology announced the conclusion of an 11-year study in 2009 and revealed that women who drank two or more artificially sweetened beverages a day, including diet sodas, doubled their risk of rapid kidney function decline. The researchers noted that although artificially sweetened sodas reduced kidney function rapidly, no such relation between sugar-sweetened beverages and kidney function was found.
Dissolving Kidney Stones
According to a 2009 “Los Angeles Times” article, citrus-flavored diet sodas high in citric and malic acids, such as Diet 7-Up and Diet Sunkist Orange, may reduce the risk of forming kidney stones because the acids dissolve calcium buildup in the kidneys. The University of California at San Francisco researchers were quick to point out that their study does not suggest that patients with recurrent kidney stones should trade in their water bottles for cans of diet soda.
- “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach”; Gordon M. Wardlaw; 2009
- “Nutritional Sciences”; Michelle McGuire; 2007
- ScienceDaily.com; Diets High in Sodium and Artificially Sweetened Soda Linked to Kidney Function Decline; November 2009
- "Los Angeles Times"; Diet Soda May Help With Kidney Stones; Shari Roan; April 2009