People watching their weight will often reach for a Diet Coke in a bid to "be good" and cut down their sugar intake, but is this type of beverage all that it's cracked up to be?
Niraj Naik, the creator of that viral Coca Cola infographic has compiled yet another eye-opening graphic. But this time, it's about Diet Coke - and how it supposedly affects the body.
"Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain," says Susan Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and behavioural neuroscientist.
Startled, much? Here's what happens to your body in the first hour after glugging a Diet Coke (according to the Renegade Pharmacist).
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First 10 Minutes – Tricks Your Taste Buds And Attacks Your Teeth
The phosphoric acid attacks the enamel in your teeth, while the artificial sweeteners like aspartame hit your system. Aspartame may trigger taste receptors and trick your body into thinking it has just processed sugar.
Research, including studies from Swithers and colleagues, shows that frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the opposite effect by confusing the body’s natural ability to manage calories based on tasting something sweet.
According to a report published in the March / April edition of General Dentistry, phosphoric acid in soda causes tooth enamel erosion, even with minimal exposure.
20 Minutes – May Switch On Fat Storage Mode
Like regular Coke this can trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode.
Artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols (another type of low-calorie sweetener) present in diet colas can all interfere negatively with natural gut bacteria that is part of your immune and digestive system, according to Amanda Payne of Switzerland’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health
Data from a number of studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study also reported greater risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is related to diabetes and cardiovascular problems, for consumers of artificially sweetened beverages. Some data indicated that those who consumed artificially sweetened beverages had double the risk of metabolic syndrome compared to non-consumers.
40 Minutes – Can Cause Addiction
The potentially deadly combination of caffeine and aspartame creates a short addictive high similar in the way cocaine works. Excitotoxins are released which may exhaust your brain by overstimulating it’s neuroreceptors, especially if consumed on a regular basis.
Excitotoxins are shown to freely penetrate certain brain regions and rapidly destroy neurons by hyperactivating the NMDA subtype of Glu receptor in studies.
Cravings for more coke are explained by the release of two neurotransmitters in the brain, dopamine and glutamate.
Caffeine and aspartame increases dopamine levels as shown in various studies.
Aspartic acid taken in its free form (unbound to proteins), significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate.
Researchers say glutamate is more essential to addiction than dopamine. Source: Phenotype Offers New Perception on Cocaine The Scientist Date: 21 Jan 2002
60 Minutes – Depletes Nutrients, Makes You Hungry And Thirsty For More
Unlike the small amount of satisfaction you get from regular coke your body may still crave sweets. This makes you likely to reach for another soda, or worse, some other junk food you consider to be safe and the cycle continues.
A can of diet coke provides no nourishment and would replace a more nutritious drink you could have drunk while potentially depleting your body of essential minerals
It will never quench your thirst as it dehydrates rather than hydrates your body. A lack of vital water can lead to brain fog, poor concentration, fatigue and feeling irritable.
“Some of the connection to metabolic disease could be related to how people behave by saying to themselves, ‘I’m having a diet soda, so this cheeseburger is OK.’ says Swithers
Marisa Peer rated by Men’s Health as Britain’s Best Therapist, a behavioural psychologist and a world renowned expert in eating disorders confirms this: “It is very common to see clients who are overweight who drink Diet Coke who then eat a plate of chips or reach for the cake. This is because drinking a ‘diet drink’ like Diet Coke makes them feel it is now ok to eat whatever they want."
More Hidden Dangers
A can of diet cola contains 44-62mg of phosphoric acid, more than in many other soft drinks and researchers at Tufts University in Boston showed that women who regularly drank three or more cans a day had four per cent lower bone mineral density in their hips compared to those who preferred other soft drinks.
Phosphoric acid has also been linked to lower bone density in some studies, including a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In experiments at Harvard University, it was found to make skin and muscles wither and to damage the heart and kidneys over time.
Phosphoric acid has been associated with urinary changes that promote kidney stones and drinking 2 or more colas per day is associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease caused by a combination of phosphoric acid, caffeine and other additives.
Chronic consumption of aspartame can lead to potentially harmful side effects to your body, and the long term effects in humans are still not certain, although recent studies in animals prove its damaging effects, especially to the brain.
It's worth stating that since we published Naik's original infographic, there have been a number of questions raised surrounding the accuracy of what he had to say.
A spokesperson from Coca Cola responded to the infographic with the following statement: "People have enjoyed drinking a Coca-Cola for more than 129 years. Like all soft drinks, it is perfectly safe to drink and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle.
"We provide a choice of colas to meet the needs of different consumers, including options that are lower sugar, sugar free and caffeine free."
Naik adds: "From my experience as a community pharmacist, helping people to get off medications for metabolic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, I found if people drink diet sodas they still get the same problems as people who drink normal soda."