Soda is generally thought to be a nonalcoholic, flavored, carbonated beverage that is commercially prepared and sold. Diet soft drinks are sugar-free, artificially sweetened, non-alcoholic carbonated beverages that are marketed to people, such as diabetics, athletes who are seeking to lose weight or at least maintain a degree of fitness or anyone who wants to make more health-conscious choices.
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All soda is made the same up to a certain degree. After that, when companies attempt to produce a soda that contains no sugar, various artificial sweeteners are added. One of these is aspartame, commonly known as NutraSweet. It was introduced in 1982 in Diet Coke.
Cyclamates are another sugar substitute in soda. These sweeteners were used because they had a more pleasant taste. However, in 1970, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned cyclamates in the United States because of evidence they caused cancer in lab rats. However, cyclamates are still used in many countries around the world in diet sodas.
Saccharin was the artificial sweetener that U.S. producers of diet soda turned to when cyclamates were no longer usable. The FDA petitioned to ban saccharin as well and list it as a carcinogen after lab experiments, but the ban was lifted in 1991, By then, most diet sodas were sweetened with aspartame. The only diet drink on record still using saccharin is Tab.
Sucralose and acesulfame potassium were then introduced. Sucralose, marketed as Splenda, debuted in 1998. Acesulfame potassium is known commercially as Sunett or Ace K. Diet Rite, which uses Splenda, is one of the highest-selling diet sodas on the market.
So what sparked diet soda in the first place? Ginger ale, which is sugar-free, was launched in Brooklyn in 1952. Ginger ale was originally designed to help diabetics, not necessarily dieters. And from there, Royal Crown Cola announced in 1958 that it would be producing a soda product known as Diet Rite. Then Tab followed, first with cyclamates, then saccharin.
By the early 1990s, it was common to find as many diet sodas in supermarkets as regular sodas. Tab made a huge comeback during this time after new studies concluded that saccharin was not a cancer-causing chemical. By the turn of the century, soda companies had not only embraced the idea of diet sodas, but were also flavoring them with vanilla and lemon. Drinks such as Diet Vanilla Coke and Diet Pepsi Vanilla spread far and wide. By 2004, alcohol companies were announcing that their alcoholic drinks were sugar-free or “diet” products as well.
Immediately upon launching the use of sugar substitutes, soda companies were inundated not only with skepticism about the effectiveness of diet soda on weight loss, but also with concerns over sweetener chemicals' possible health effects. In a study by Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts, consumption of diet soda was shown to have a direct effect on increased metabolic syndrome. This study showed that 48 percent of the subjects were at higher risk for weight gain and elevated blood sugar and that diet soda drinkers were less likely to consume healthy foods and, ironically, more likely to crave sugar.
Animal studies have found that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain because of faulty insulin response.
Some artificial sweeteners are linked to more serious health risks. Aspartame may actually be worse for diabetics than sugar, and side effects have been reported by some sucralose consumers.
For regular soda drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese goes up 26 percent for up to each half-can of regular soda ingested each day. That increases by about 4 percent when you up the intake of regular soda to one can each day. And, for up to two cans a day, individuals are at more than a 42 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese.
Now, by changing the habit to diet soft drinks, the risk of becoming overweight or obese increases to over 36 percent with just one half of a can a day. And, by consuming more than two cans of diet soda, you are looking at an astronomical rate of more than 55 percent.
New Artificial Sweeteners
If you are familiar with various artificial sweeteners, you may or may not have heard of several new sweeteners tied to the stevia Root. You can find this sweetener in stores marketed as Stevia and as Truvia. A company called Zevia has announced the production of a carbonated drink that sports zero calories and contains the product Stevia. Zevia comes in flavors such as Cola, Orange, Root Beer and Twist (lemon-line). The drink contains no calories, but offers everything else that soda drinkers have come to expect, such as caffeine. The FDA has not approved Zevia so technically, it isn’t considered a soft drink, but rather a nutritional supplement. However, if you are in search of this product, you will find it next to sodas on the shelves of approximately 900 stores across the United States.
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of a tropical South American plant and has long been used in Brazil and Paraguay. It was approved as a food ingredient in Japan in the 1970s.
Other General Faults of Diet Soda
Researchers at Harvard found that women who drank two or more diet sodas daily run a greater risk of losing the ability for the kidneys to filter blood. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Dental Gentle Care say people who drink three or more sugary sodas daily have at least a 62 percent increase in dental decay and tooth loss. In general, carbonated drinks contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel surfaces. Because the sticky sugars and artificial sweeteners adhere to tooth surfaces, this leads to enamel breakdown and more cavities. Because saliva helps neutralize acids and wash your teeth clean, the worst time to drink soda is when you are thirsty. And the increased problem with diet soda is that people tend to sip on them throughout the day and between meals. And, although they have no calories, the high frequency of drinking puts the teeth at greater risk.