Is Diet Pop Bad for Kids?

An occasional diet soda in small amounts is probably safe for children, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, daily consumption of diet soda may be cause for concern. According to a 2010 report by the Mayo Clinic, consuming that much soda can cause serious health consequences, such as obesity, diabetes and kidney problems. Although diet pop does not contain large amounts of sugar, it contains many chemicals that are dangerous in high amounts--such as artificial sweeteners, sodium benzoate and caffeine.

Those diet sodas may look innocent, but they can actually make kids more dehydrated. (Image: junce/iStock/Getty Images)

Unhealthy Choices

You reach for a diet soda instead of a regular one thinking that it is a healthier choice for yourself or your children, but this may not be true, the Mayo Clinic reports. Diet sodas are lower in calories than regular sodas, but people who drink them don't seem to eat a healthier diet or lose weight, according to Mayo Clinic health surveys. On top of that, research suggests that artificial sweeteners in diet soda may increase cravings for sugar and lead people to make poor food choices, states the Mayo Clinic report.

Sodium Benzoate

Many types of popular diet soda contain a preservative called sodium benzoate. This preservative is of concern because, when mixed with the additive vitamin C, it creates benzene—a substance that has been linked to cancer, according to a 2007 report in the British newspaper The Independent. In England in 2006, the Food Standards Agency pulled some sodas from supermarket shelves after tests showed benzene levels up to 36 times those allowed in tap water. The article also points to research conducted in 2007 by Sheffield University researcher Peter Piper, which noted that sodium benzoate may have the ability to damage DNA in the mitochondria of cells. High levels of sodium benzoate may put children at higher risk for developing many types of blood cancer including leukemia, as well as cirrhosis of the liver and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Piper states.

Soda Addiction

Most diet sodas give you a lift, which is because of the caffeine they contain. Children who already have a lot of energy may become hyperactive when given caffeine. According to the Women to Women website, caffeine addiction can cause fatigue, anxiety and insomnia, and can worsen symptoms of a hormonal imbalance.

Caffeine and Thirst

Generally speaking, because most soda causes dehydration, it's not the best choice for quenching thirst or rehydrating the body. The caffeine in diet soda acts as a diuretic, so the more you drink, the thirstier you become. The sodium in diet soda increases that thirst. .

Healthier Alternatives

For best health, slowly wean your children off of diet soda, and provide the drinks only on special occasions. Don't make soda your families' "default beverage," Women to Women warns. Whenever possible, opt for a caffeine-free beverage for your children. Healthy alternatives to diet sodas include water, juice, a juice and mineral water mixture, milk and smoothies.

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