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Diet Soda: Sinless Sip or Saboteur?


I’ve been a lover of diet soda—Diet Coke® in particular—for years. Memories from my childhood include sipping it from a big cup loaded with ice while scarfing down fast food or a bag of chips. Though I’ve long given up my fast food habit, improved my food and fitness habits, and have lost and kept off more than thirty pounds since high school, Diet Coke® has remained a staple in my life. While I drink it for the taste of it (I love it’s bubbly sweetness), I also enjoy the emotional lift it gives me (especially since I’m not a coffee drinker). It’s also a calorie-free snack I look forward to. Although I don’t credit Diet Coke® for my weight loss success, my intake has gone up (and is currently at an all-time high) as my weight has gone down.

I know I’m not alone in my love of Diet Coke®. I recently learned that my friend Tracy Minucci, a NYC-based hedge-fund trader, and I share more than our passion for the Yankees. On our way to our first ballgame together, I pulled out a bottle of Diet Coke® from my purse and explained that I bring one with me whenever I go to the stadium since they only serve Pepsi® there. She then pulled one out of her bag—well, not really, but she may as well have! “We’re soul sisters!” she said, and admitted that before every game, she gets her own bottle at a deli across the street from the stadium. Although Tracy used to think it would help her keep her weight down, she now drinks it for the same reasons I do.

I also have those friends who know me so well, like Cheryl Harris. Whenever we go out for lunch or dinner, Cheryl usually takes care of ordering Diet Coke® for the both of us.

But with every sip, I feel pangs of guilt and wonder if my habit will lead to health problems down the road. And because so many people turn to diet soda, especially to lose weight, I was prompted to research and write about the topic; please check out my latest MSNBC.com column: Dieting? Why you should ditch the diet soda: http://bit.ly/cZ96Dv.

Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, executive director of Centers for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) suggests Americans skip diet soda altogether, citing concerns about ingredients such as phosphoric acid (that can promote dental caries and weaken bones), artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame-K (that may be linked to increased cancer risk), artificial colors, and caffeine. Emerging research also suggest links between increased diet soda intake and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms that increase the risk for heart disease), kidney problems, preterm delivery, weaker bones, and other adverse health effects.

Believe me, I want to curb my intake especially since as a registered dietitian I preach moderation and would strongly encourage any client or consumer to cut back if they drank several cans a day as I typically do. Zari Ginsburg, one of my BFFs, and I recently decided to set goals and check in with each other to reduce our intake (her daily vice is a 20 ounce diet Dr. Pepper®).

Interestingly enough, as I write this blog, I have a head cold. To hydrate and heal, I’ve been drowning in good old water and have only had 3 sips of diet coke in the last 3 days. Is this just the beginning of the end of my daily soda fix? I’ll check back with you and let you know.

Do you drink diet soda? Do you think diet soda is the devil? Have you, or do you want to, kick the habit? Would love to hear your story…..

Sources:

Artificially Sweetened Beverages: Cause for concern. Journal of the American Medical Association, December 2009: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19996404

Fueling the Obesity Epidemic? Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long-Term Weight Gain, Obesity, 2008:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18535548

Non-Nutritive Sweetener Consumption in Humans: Effects on appetite and food Intake and their putative mechanisms. American Journal Clinical Nutrition, January 2009: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

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