Soda has become the most popular drink in the world. With a surplus of brands and flavors, the choices are endless. However, sodas are chocked full of sugar, averaging about 75 grams in one can. Most people go for the alternative, diet soda, which advertises itself as a "healthier" alternative to regular soda since it has no sugar. But, diet soda can be just as harmful as regular soda.
Instead of using sugar, diet soda contains aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial non-saccharide sweetener used as a sugar substitute. It's become a source of controversy throughout the years with several studies claiming that the artificial sweetener has dangerous side effects. The FDA approved the use of aspartame in food and drinks in 1981. In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a review of hundreds of studies looking into the effects of aspartame. They found that aspartame was safe for human consumption and set an acceptable daily intake or ADI of aspartame at 40 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. A can of diet soda contains about 190 mg of aspartame.
However, aspartame has about 4 calories per gram and it's about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Additionally, studies have monitored participants over several years who consumed beverages with aspartame. They found a link between increased body weight and waist circumference in participants who drank the beverage with the artificial sweetener used compared to those who didn't.
A 2013 review published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism cites several animal studies that report a link between regular intake of nonnutritive sweeteners and increased food intake. It writes that sweeteners can increase appetite by disrupting signal processes that occur when someone eats more calories. So, if someone is drinking diet soda, the body is signaling that something eat is entering the gut. But the body is receiving fewer calories than needed, and this leads to overeating.
Overall, diet soda isn't inherently dangerous but can still have negative effects on your health. It's best to keep things in moderation, such as diet soda and try to drink healthier beverages.