Secret Side Effects of Drinking Diet Soda, Experts Say

Which Diet Soda Drinker Are You: The guy who enjoys the occasional sip of fizzy drink and flavor, or one who has to have it every day? Since it’s calorie-free, you could consider your favorite drink a soft drink for everyone … however, after a journalist shared the fight against her 40-year-old Diet Coke habit, addiction experts are sounding the alarm about your health that, as one doctor suggests, we all ” should be very concerned “.

This week, the New York Times published an article in which a writer, Abby Ellin, revealed she had been “powerless” for decades over her daily diet Coke cravings. “At various times I’ve tried to quit, but I’ve never been able to deprive myself for more than a week,” Ellin wrote. She was only able to give up the diet when persistent abdominal pain required a work-up of medical diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopy, ultrasound, and CT scan, all of which remained inconclusive.

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Without any other explanation, the author stopped drinking diet, cold turkey. Then she spoke to clinical experts who specialize in public health, psychology, and nutrition to find out what really happens when you can’t live without your favorite drink. Read on to find out the secret side effects of drinking diet soda. Also, don’t miss out on the eating habits that should be avoided while sitting all day, say nutritionists.


Ellin explains that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not include diet soda on its list of addictive substances.

However, research suggests that adding it should possibly be a consideration. Ellin cites a 2007 study in which laboratory rats were forced to choose between saccharin and cocaine, the latter which the researchers described as “a highly addictive and harmful substance.”

Between the two, a remarkable 94 percent of rats chose saccharin over cocaine, even if they had previously shown signs of cocaine addiction.

RELATED: Coca-Cola just updated the recipe in this popular soda

Human brain on a dark blue backgroundShutterstock

Diet Coke is flavored with aspartame, not saccharin, but the two artificial sweeteners can have similar effects, says a doctor. Ellin spoke to Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, FACSM. Peeke, who specializes in nutrition and public health, explains that the aspartame that sweetens diet soda is primarily responsible for why you might want more: Because artificial sweeteners don’t really provide a solution.

As Ellin wrote, “Artificial sweeteners activate the brain’s reward system, but only about half as much as regular sugar,” said Dr. Peeke. Fake sugar isn’t the same amount as real stuff, so it makes you want more and more. “

RELATED: What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Artificial Sweeteners?

Ellin says it is sweeteners combined with caffeine (another addictive substance) that make diet soda a big one-two for many who love it.

And, the author explains, a 12-ounce can of Diet Coke contains about 33% more caffeine than 12 ounces of Coca-Cola Classic (45 milligrams versus 34 milligrams). This can help make Diet Coke even more addicting compared to non-diet soft drinks.

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Ashley Gearhardt, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and director of the school’s Food and Addiction Science and Treatment Lab.

Speaking of Ellin’s report, Gearhardt said that if Diet Coke or some other diet soda were to subject a new pharmaceutical product to a proper protocol of testing for its addictive effects, it would likely receive further investigation. As Gearhardt put it, “We would be very concerned.”

Drink sodaShutterstock

Aside from the stomach ache that caused her to quit the Diet Coke forever, Ellin said the drink was starting to taste “like I imagine a tide pod” to her.

In addition to physical symptoms that could indicate that your addiction to diet soda has gone too far, Gearhardt described the following symptoms as some noticeable signs of an addiction:

  • When you lose control of a desire.
  • When you consume it when you know you shouldn’t.
  • If it is abolished, it will send you a revocation.

Woman with soda glass in a restaurantiStock

Research has shown that diet sodas can affect your liver, gut health, insulin levels, weight, and more. Read about surprising side effects of diet soda, say dietitians.

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