Diet soda, just another drink on the shelf

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For some, diet soda is an every day necessity equal to coffee. Whether it’s staying up late to cram for a test or waking up just in time to make it to class, diet soda is what keeps these people running. And they’re not alone, as these drinks are among some of the most heavily consumed in the United States.

Diet drinks are a popular beverage for people of all ages, especially those attempting to make healthier choices in their diet. According to a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, about one-fifth of the U.S. population consumed diet drinks on any given day.

There are several studies suggesting diet soda is one of the best beverages to drink if one is trying to have a healthier diet, but still wants to consume caffeine. But are diet sodas actually healthier for people, or it is just hype?

The label on diet soda states what ingredients are used to make the beverage, but there is one ingredient researchers are looking into more. Some research claims that the artificial or “fake” sugar, usually aspartame, in diet soda tends to have negative impacts on the body.

Mark Haub, department head and associate professor of human nutrition, said the effects are different depending on the individual.

“Across the board there aren’t negative outcomes of drinking diet soda,” Haub said. “But some people are sensitive to its ingredients more than others.”

Some studies have suggested that the artificial flavoring can be lethal, toxic and lead to a higher risk of cancer. However, there has been no conclusive research to that claim, and it is often inspired by the idea that because the products aren’t natural, they are harmful to the body in general. However, there is again no conclusive evidence that shows the long term effects of the ingredients in diet soda.

Kelby Green, sophomore in human nutrition, said it is possible to drink diet soda and live a healthy lifestyle.

“I know it’s not good for me, but I think it’s important for people to understand how to have a healthy balance between healthy foods and some ‘cheat’ foods,” Green said. “I choose diet soda as one of my treats or as a cheat drink.”

People who are trying to achieve healthier lifestyles often believe they should always get the “low-calorie” or “zero-calorie” beverages when drinking anything but water. The use of the artificial flavors or nonnutritive sweeteners in these low calorie drinks is to ensure that those consuming the drinks are taking in the least amount of calories possible.

There is no evidence that strongly supports that drinking low-calorie or diet beverages are better for you than consuming the regular, full calorie beverage in the long term. In order to obtain a healthy lifestyle an individual must take several steps including exercising often, eating in moderation and being aware of what they are consuming.

Dianna Schalles, a registered dietitian at Lafene Health Center, said the key to consuming any type of “unhealthy” beverage is in moderation.

“If diet soda replaces nutrient rich beverages and foods in a person’s diet, such as calcium rich milk, it can lead to health risks,” Schalles said. “The age-old advice of moderation can help guide those who enjoy a diet soda now and then.”

Just like any other beverage or food on the market, diet soda has its positives and negatives. Haub said the decision to consume diet soda is ultimately up to the individual to decide what is best for them.

“Individuals just need to be aware of what they are consuming and how much they are [consuming of it],” Haub said. “Drinking a diet soda once or twice a day isn’t the worst possible thing.”

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