The debate over whether diet beverages are good, bad, or just okay for us never seems to end. There’s definitely a lot of misinformation about diet beverages in the public eye that is not based on strong research designed to test cause and effect.
Point 1: Consuming a diet beverage vs. a 180-calorie can of soda that’s packed with sugar is definitely advantageous for health.
Point 2: Artificial sweeteners, caramel color, caffeine and other ingredients added to diet beverages are safe and there is no credible evidence that these ingredients cause cancer, weight gain, or other harmful conditions. A recent clinical study at the University of Colorado at Denver actually demonstrated that consumption diet beverages (as compared to water) helped individuals lose weight over a 12-week period (click here). Likewise, most clinical studies on consuming moderate levels of caffeine (<200-300 mg daily) have shown benefits on alertness and potential decreases in the risk of developing dementia later in life.
So what’s the real problem with diet beverages? The high acid content of diet beverages is bad for your teeth and may affect the health of your bones long-term when consumed chronically. Here’s why…
Point 3: Your body maintains a normal pH of about 7.35-7.45. Chronic consumption of acidic foods and beverages (e.g. diet beverages) may slightly decrease your body’s pH to the lower end of this spectrum. Your body compensates for the added acidity by releasing calcium salts from the bone to offset or “buffer” the extra acidity. Consuming 1-2-3+ diet beverages a day with other acidic foods over a few years may cause bone loss. Non-fat milk, fruits, and vegetables may help offset acidic diets since they also have “buffering” power.
I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t ever drink a diet beverage (I personally consume diet beverages). Moderation is always the key… one diet beverage every now and then won’t hurt. Just don’t go overboard.