Is Diet Soda More Dangerous Than Sugar-Sweetened Beverages?
Artificially sweetened diet soda is widely used as a low or zero-calorie alternative to regular sugar-sweetened beverages. While it may seem like a healthier choice, a growing body of evidence shows that artificially sweetened diet sodas aren’t any better than their regular sugar alternatives.
Although diet soda may offer a short term reduction in calories, artificial sweeteners commonly found in diet sodas – like aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k – have been linked to serious health problems and can be toxic to the brain. In fact, studies show that individuals who drink diet soda regularly are more likely to have chronically high insulin levels, compromised gut microbiomes, and nearly double the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes) than those that don’t.
So, is diet soda actually more dangerous than sugar-sweetened beverages? Let’s take a closer look.
The Scoop on Sugar
It’s no secret that Americans love sugar. According to researchers, the average American consumes 140 pounds of sugar a year, much of it in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages like energy drinks, juices, and soft drinks.
Despite our excessive sugar intake, there is mounting evidence that sugar is toxic…even lethal. Excessive sugar intake, which has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, is responsible for 35 million deaths a year globally.
The Problem with Sugar
High in Calories, Low in Nutrients
Sugar is 99.4 to 99.7 percent pure calories with no vitamins, minerals, fats, or proteins – just simple carbohydrates that spike blood sugar, followed by an insulin response and subsequent sugar crash. In other words, sugar produces inflammation in your body, increases erratic brain cell firing, and sends your blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride.
How Sugar Affects Your Body
When we ingest sucrose, the sugar we find in processed foods like white flour, white bread, cookies, candy, cake, muffins, crackers, chips, energy drinks, sodas etc., it enters the bloodstream very quickly, wreaking havoc on our blood sugar level – first pushing it sky-high – causing excitability, nervous tension and hyperactivity, then dropping it extremely low causing fatigue, weariness and exhaustion.
Low blood sugar levels are associated with overall lower brain activity, which means more sugar cravings and ultimately more bad decisions.
Sugar Addiction is Real
Much like cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine, a diet loaded with sugar can generate excessive reward signals in the brain which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction.
Unfortunately, contrary to what popular marketing efforts would have you believe, artificial sweeteners are also bad for your health.
Beware of Artificial Sweeteners
Research indicates that artificial sugar substitutes:
- Dangerously alter our gut bacteria and can lead to obesity.
- Contribute to chronically high insulin. (Elevated insulin levels can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other health problems).
- Desensitize your taste buds so that naturally sweet things such as fruits and vegetables, are no longer satisfying.
- Have been linked to several adverse skin reactions like numbness of the skin, swelling, inflammation, rashes, and hives.
- May lower your metabolism.
- Wreak havoc in your brain.
If you want to avoid sugar and don’t want the damage that comes from artificial sweeteners, there are better, healthier options to consider. If you’re craving a little sugar in your coffee or tea, reach for natural sweeteners like raw honey, coconut sugar, or yacon. Although sugar is sugar and we recommend using it sparingly, in their raw and natural state, these are much healthier choices than their refined counterparts and include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
If you’re looking for lower-calorie options, try monk fruit powder, erythritol, or unprocessed stevia.
- Monk Fruit Powder
Monk fruit powder is a natural low-calorie sugar alternative, derived from the monk fruit plant. Also known as Luo Han Guo, monk fruit is a sweet melon native to southeast Asia. Monk fruit gets its sweet taste from naturally-occurring antioxidants known as mogrosides. Only a small amount is needed to sweeten food or drinks.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that comes in crystals or powder form. It’s calorie-free and doesn’t cause blood sugar or insulin levels to spike. (Note: Be aware that sugar alcohols, such as Xylitol and Maltitol, may cause GI distress.)
- Unprocessed Stevia
Although unprocessed stevia is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, it does not impact blood sugar levels the same way sugar does. Some evidence even suggests that this powerful plant extract may stabilize blood sugar, but more research is needed. (Note: If you take medication for blood pressure or diabetes, talk to a healthcare provider before using stevia.)
Looking for a sweet, safe, pick-me-up solution for your 2 pm energy crash? Try Brain Boost On The Go. It includes L-Theanine to enhance focus and attention, vitamin B6, B12 & Folate (major players in mental energy, metabolism, and proper nerve function), and antioxidant-rich berries, this small but mighty stevia-sweetened power pack will calm your nerves and boost your energy so you can beat that afternoon slump and tackle everything on your to-do list.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to support your brain health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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