But what's the truth? Do they make you fat or cause health problems? Are they worse than the originals laden with that pesky devil sugar? Are they good for you? Or is the answer somewhere in-between?
Diet Soda's: What Are They?
We define diet sodas as carbonated beverages that use calorie free, or minimal calorie sweeteners. These are drinks like Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Pepsi MAX. The artificial sweeteners typically utilised in these drinks are sucralose, acesulfame potassium and aspartame. They mimic the sweetness of sugar, without the calories associated with it.
So, Do They Make You Fat?
One of the characteristics of diet sodas is that they continue little to no calories (hence the 'diet' in the title). Given that gaining weight or body fat is attributed to an excess of calories consumed over a prolonged period, it would make sense that a drink with virtually no calories wouldn't contribute much to making you fatter.
With that said, it is often thought that diet sodas contain some form of 'dark magic' that does make you fat. Something to do with insulin. So far, there is no research to suggest that diet soda inhibits fat loss directly or that artificial sweeteners have an adverse effect on insulin secretion.
Health Problems: Guilty By Association
I know what you are probably thinking ''but I have seen all these articles that said diet soda was bad for your health''. Chances are these were based on research known as Epidemiology, which looks at links or correlations between two things for further studies.
The truth is there is evidence showing that unhealthy people drink lots of diet soda. But this is just a correlation; it doesn't imply that the diet soda directly causes their health woes. It's more likely that already unhealthy people switch from regular soda to diet soda, as an attempt to be more healthy. But as we know, switching sodas isn't the answer for turning the tides from unhealthy, to healthy.
This tendency for unhealthy people to change from regular soda to diet soda in an attempt to be more healthy (but not changing any of their other poor health or dietary habits) leads diet soda often looking guilty by association, unfairly so.
So, All Good Then? Not So Fast
So we have seen that diet soda probably isn't as bad as people make it out to be, but that's not to say that it doesn't come with some drawbacks. Tying back to what I said before about people thinking that just changing from regular soda to diet soda, is enough to make one healthy, this mentality can also cause people to overeat.
Research suggests, simply put, that people think by opting for the diet soda option they have made room for some extra calories and ultimately end up consuming more as a result. As mentioned before, diet soda does not directly lead to weight gain, but this suggests that it can cause other psychological problems when it comes to diet weight gain.
On top of this, excessive soda consumption, including diet soda, can lead to poor dental hygiene and we all know how expensive dentists can be.
What You Should Walk Away With, The Summary
The truth is diet soda is nowhere near as bad as it is made out to be. Because of the no calories thing, it is a better option than regular soda, and it won't directly make you fat or cause health problems. But that's not to suggest that it is a golden ticket and you should start drinking it by the litre either.
If you have an unhealthy lifestyle and dietary habits already, making the switch from regular soda to diet soda may reduce calories, but it won't be the answer to your health problems. Consuming diet soda isn't an excuse to have more calories either. This mentality will just lead to further weight gain and exacerbate existing health problems.
Like everything it comes back to the old saying ''everything in moderation''.
There's nothing wrong with the odd diet soda now and then.