Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
January 26, 2011

The Not So Definitive Guide to Diet Soda

By Mark Sisson
225 Comments

Before I begin, I want to make something clear: this is not your standard definitive guide to whatever. I’d like to be able to issue a proclamation regarding diet soda that stands the test of time immemorial, but I cannot. Research is still in its infancy, and exactly what diet soda does to those who drink it – if anything – is incredibly confusing. The one thing I can say with any certainty is that, while it’s unfair to say it will kill you or give your unborn child prenatal tumors or make you impossibly obese, you’re probably better off without diet soda. It tastes weird, the list of unpronounceable ingredients is too long for my comfort level, and I’ve seen one too many unsuccessful dieters that seem to live on the stuff.

There are two things to consider when making any conclusions about diet soda’s place in a healthy diet. Do the ingredients used in diet soda pose a threat to your short-term or long-term (or that of your offspring’s) health? Is it a kind of sugary methadone, impeding healthy eating by making it harder to kick the desire for sweet things in your mouth because, well, you’re constantly putting things in your mouth that mimic sugar? Let’s dig in.

First, the ingredients. What goes into a can of your average diet soda?

Carbonated water, some sort of food coloring, and preservatives like potassium benzoate are all innocuous enough. Nothing to worry about there. You won’t see Mercola issuing dire warnings about Caramel Color No. 76 anytime soon. It’s the other stuff that interests (or worries) us: artificial sweeteners and (to a lesser extent) phosphoric acid. Let’s take a look at the two major sweeteners in popular use, aspartame and sucralose. Are they dangerous?

Aspartame gets a bad rap. High dose rat studies implicate it as a carcinogen, but in exceedingly large amounts. A can of diet soda a day probably won’t give you cancer. Would I avoid it as a pregnant mother? Yes. Would I be wary of drinking several cans a day? Yes. The basic takeaway is that while the clinical evidence of immediate danger upon normal ingestion of aspartame is lacking, inconclusive, or unclear, the vast amount of anecdotal evidence from people linking aspartame to headaches, migraines, panic attacks, and other maladies gives me great pause. I mean, the stuff tastes horrible, and that’s enough for me, but some people appear to have real health issues with aspartame. Not everyone, obviously, but some do. If aspartame appears to give you trouble, don’t let PubMed convince you that it’s harmless. It may very well be safe in the amounts we typically consume in the majority of people, but you can’t ignore your own experiences.

Also known as Splenda, sucralose is a popular sweetener that’s often called “natural” because it’s the product of selective sucrose chlorination. It’s 3.3 times sweeter than aspartame and 600 times sweeter than sucrose. It seems to have less of a disgusting aftertaste than aspartame (it’s all foul to me, though). Like aspartame, most of the studies reporting negative effects used insanely high doses of sucralose. I’m talking doses in the area of thousands of Splenda packets a day for months on end. I’m no fan, but I don’t think normal consumption of the stuff will kill you. There was a study that found normal doses (between 1.1 and 11.1 mg/kg per day; recommended maximum daily dosage is 5 mg/kg) of sucralose negatively impacted the gut flora in rats and lead to weight gain, although a later review called the study’s results into question. I’ll pass, but thanks, expert panel. There’s also the fact that sucralose is usually combined with something called acesulfame-K (potassium), another sweetener that many researchers think needs more toxicity tests. My take? Studies showing negative effects may be overstated or misguided, but why take the risk for that weird chemical aftertaste? Just avoid the stuff to be on the safe side.

And then there’s phosphoric acid. Here’s how the story supposedly goes: phosphoric acid, which soda makers use in place of pricier citric acid, leaches calcium from your bones and reduces bone mineral density. Is it true? Well, it’s become pretty clear that foods containing dietary phosphorus – like meat, dairy, and other “evil” foods – strengthen bones, rather than leach from them. But phosphorus isn’t exactly the same as phosphoric acid, which epidemiological studies have connected with loss of bone mineral density and osteoporosis. One in particular found that only colas (both diet and regular) were strongly associated with loss of bone mineral density. What do colas have that other diet sodas largely do not? Caffeine plus phosphoric acid. A more recent controlled trial found that only fizzy drinks containing caffeine resulted in increased calcium excretion; phosphoric acid content exerted no effect, either alone or in concert with caffeine. I don’t think we can implicate phosphoric acid just yet.

Okay, but remember: we’ve got to be careful when analyzing a food’s worth by singling out one of its constituent parts for good or for bad (although diet soda is by all definitions not food, it is a consumable whose stated purpose is to help dieters lose weight by avoiding sugar). Let’s judge diet soda on that. It may be technically safe to consume, but does it do its “job”? Does it help us lose weight by replacing our sugar intake with non-caloric sweetener intake and reducing cravings?

By most accounts, no. If you look at the literature, diet soda has repeatedly been shown to correlate with weight gain and increased incidence of metabolic syndrome:

One study found evidence of a linear dose-response; the more diet soda people drank, the more likely they were to be overweight or obese. As Sharon Fowler, the author of the study, puts it, “for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”

Another study, which I covered a couple years ago, analyzed the diets of more than 9,500 men and women between the ages of 45 and 64 and found that drinking diet soda was associated with a 34% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome – the perfect storm of high triglycerides, belly fat, insulin resistance, and obesity that’s so popular nowadays. This was an even stronger association than the one between the “high-meat, high-fat” Western diet and metabolic syndrome.

Authors of both studies speculate that diet soda drinking just extends the life of sugar cravings, rather than eliminating it. In this scenario, diet soda doesn’t regulate the desire for sugar; it increases it, and diet soda drinkers are simply replacing those empty calories with real sugar. This makes sense, and I think it’s part of it, but a couple other studies suggest that something else is going on entirely independent of caloric intake:

The dietary habits and weights of a homogenous group of middle aged women were tracked for a year. Regardless of initial weight status and inexplicable by “food consumption patterns,” users of diet soda were more likely than nonusers to gain weight. They didn’t eat markedly different from non-soda drinkers and yet they got fatter. It continues…

A more recent study broke rats up into two groups. The first received ad libitum oral doses of water sweetened with the maximum Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of saccharin, aspartame, cyclamate, and acesulfame-K (the same formulae used in commercial sweeteners), while the second group received plain water. Both were given ad libitum access to standard rat chow (which usually resembles the SAD: a disgusting mix of vegetable oils and sucrose). While caloric intake did not change between groups, the rats given non-caloric sweeteners experienced greater increases in bodyweight. The rats apparently weren’t driven to eat more because of confused satiety signals, and yet they still gained more weight. What gives?

Are diet soda drinkers eating more actual sweets to make up for the missing calories? Are their satiety signal hormones being altered by some chemical additive? Or is something in the diet soda actually causing weight gain independent of caloric intake?

We simply don’t know. We do know, however, that our bodies respond to everything they encounter. You lift a weight, you send a message to your body (build more muscle, make bones denser, establish neural pathways for movement!). You put food in your mouth, that elicits a response, even before the food hits your gut, as with the carbohydrate mouth rinse that increases athletic performance. It may be that introducing artificial sweeteners directly to your gut (bypassing the tongue) doesn’t affect subjective satiety or satiety hormones, but that’s not how we drink diet sodas. We taste them. With our tongues. And there is a decent amount of (mixed) evidence that certain artificial sweeteners in certain situations in certain individuals can actually elicit hormonal responses from taste alone, leading to hunger that isn’t really there and perhaps even insulin to handle dietary glucose that was never actually eaten. The details of any effect artificial sweeteners have on our hunger hormones are still being teased out, and the subject demands a dedicated post sometime in the future – so stay tuned for that.

In the end, diet sodas contain potentially harmful chemical additives and phosphoric acid that may or may not leach minerals. The majority of people who drink them to lose weight are unsuccessful, and most epidemiological evidence and some clinical evidence has linked diet soda intake to increased obesity, even irrespective of caloric intake. It may be that tasting sweet stuff without a corresponding caloric dose is throwing off our satiety signals and messing with our normal hormonal response to food, or perhaps relying on fake sugar just makes it harder to give up the real stuff.

Of course, whether they have a place in your diet is up to you. Maybe you’ll buck the trend and lose more weight and experience greater relief from sugar cravings with diet soda. Maybe you have one every few days and no more. If you’re a dedicated diet soda addict, maybe experiment with slowly eliminating it from your diet. Drink a bit less than usual and see how you feel. Try to save your 80/20 allowance for something a bit more fun, like maybe a high quality full-fat ice cream or a hunk of super dark chocolate (which actually has some nutritional merit, like good dairy fat). I’m gonna say that ideally you ditch them altogether, mostly because they seem to reinforce bad habits in most people and because the long term effects aren’t fully known.

Whatever you do, don’t start a diet soda habit after reading this post!

Comments? Concerns? Give me your diet soda stories. I want to hear about the aspartame headaches, the effect Splenda has on your satiety, and anything you can think of. Don’t hold back!

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

225 Comments on "The Not So Definitive Guide to Diet Soda"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Chris
Chris
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t know if I’d call potassium benzoate innocuous: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium_benzoate#Safety_and_health

Nick
Nick
5 years 7 months ago

Agreed, I have stopped drinking diet sodas, not because of the reasons stated above, but because Sodium and Potassium Benzoate in the presence of vitamin C(ascorbic acid) and sunlight can produce benzene, a known carcinogen.

Poppabear
5 years 7 months ago

A few years ago I turned around and realized I drank nothing but Mt Dew and Diet Dew. No water. I was at 8-12 cans a day. Stomach aches every morning. It nearly destroyed my teeth, and had me around 220lbs and growing. Now, if I can’t make it in my kitchen with 2 or 3 ingredients that I know the origin of, or walk out to the barn and squeeze it fresh… I don’t drink it. Thank You Mark for posting this. It helps me keep on the straight and narrow path!

Poppabear
5 years 7 months ago

So, In a nutshell… I feel so much better after dropping all soda from my diet. Stomach aches gone, no sugar crashes etc. Diet soda or not, if you can drop all of it from your diet, you will be better off in the long run.

DaiaRavi
5 years 7 months ago
good work Poppabear – a tip perhaps.. We live in the high desert and from april to october, having a cool drink is an almost hourly thing as the humidity here can hover at 5-10% – along with sunny days – for weeks on end. We found that a number of the herbal teas (bigelow raspberry is a good one) just tossed in the cold water jug and put back in the fridge for a couple hours (or more) steeps a very satisfying taste addition to just plain water(kinda sweet too) with no calories and not other nasty stuff –… Read more »
Tamin
Tamin
5 years 7 months ago

Thanks DaiaRavi, GREAT IDEA! I didn’t think of that I only ever drink hot herbal teas. Its been getting quite hot here in Australia and water just doesn’t do it for me looks like I’ll be filling our water jugs with herbal tea!
Thanks again for the idea.

John (aka Wish I Were Riding)
John (aka Wish I Were Riding)
5 years 7 months ago

I have a LONG standing addiction to Diet Coke. I’ve been trying to cut back, but it’s not going well.

Anyway, I do absolutely love Sportea. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.

Now I need to stop the DC and go back to Sportea instead. (I’m not a shill either)

Raqui
Raqui
4 years 8 months ago

I like the herbal tea idea! I loved the taste of diet coke, but I found that carbonated water with a splash of lemon (Trader Joes has lovely large Italian bottles for less than $1 with only water and lemon!) does the trick. And its MUCH better for me. You can also buy cans of carbonated water with a splash of coconut water. It’s essentially calorie-free and not sweet, but with the carbonation and splash of flavor, you really don’t miss the sweet taste!

Mose
Mose
4 years 4 months ago

Do you feel you lost weight as a result of stopping the diet Dew> A lot?

Ruben
5 years 7 months ago
Poppabear, i have to agree with you, nothing in this world will ever replace the need for water, i make it a habit of reading every label of just about anything i purchase, the moment i have to hesitate to pronounce any world, that product is sentenced to be left behind. I would note that the body will sacrifice calcium, mostly from teeth and bones to buffer the action of the acidity of phosphorous, leading to sudden tooth breaks and skeletal degeneration. 85 % of all complaints registered with the FDA are of products containing aspartame, and aspartame has a… Read more »
ahk
ahk
5 years 7 months ago
Most artificial sweeteners I have encountered give me an irregular heartbeat at any significant level…which seems to be “about the amount it takes to sweeten a diet soda.” By ‘irregular heartbeat’ I don’t mean ‘my heart felt kind of racy for a minute’. I mean: “a condition which has led to me being taken to an ER and gets judged ‘probably not dangerous, go see your PCP’ before my PCP goes “somebody slipped you a diet coke again, didn’t they?” Thankfully my doctors haven’t been insane about wanting to put me through a ton of tests and then diagnose me… Read more »
Rainbow
Rainbow
5 years 7 months ago

I was drinking a lot of soda, and then I read a horrible research report on what phosphoric acid does to your bones and teeth and i stopped, cold turkey, immediately. (best way to stop bad habits according to me, the 80/20 principle does not work for addictions like smoking, or soda, or gum for me). It definitely reduced my cravings. The key is to get unaccustomed to the sugar TASTE. Sweeteners just make you more and more accustomed to the sweetness and you crave more of it.

Shari
Shari
5 years 7 months ago

That’s so true. Getting away from eating/drinking sweets is the goal. I never drank diet soda but I did chew sugar free gum. I recently lost 20 lbs much easier and quicker without chewing gum than the last time I tried while still chewing the gum.

Tesen
Tesen
5 years 7 months ago
And that is exactly that, getting away from thinking a good taste is a sugar based taste. I am on week three of trying to stay on the PB, but yesterday and the day before I sinned. My wife had Pepsi-Max in the house so I gave it a shot, yuck did not enjoy it. Yesterday, she had Diet-Pepsi, again yuck… three weeks and my taste buds are adapting. I have been noticing the Almonds and Walnuts I have been eating have a greater amount of flavor then I ever remember. It is coming slow, but surely! Now I just… Read more »
Dana
5 years 7 months ago
I haven’t ever been a major soda drinker, but with eating out as often as I have in the past, it’s the one beverage I get, usually coke or pepsi (no diet, bleh…the stuff is nasty), or the occasional iced tea. I also read several years back about phosphoric acid and how it leaches calcium from the bones. That certainly gives one pause and I reduced my consumption of it, and upped my intake of teas. While I am still working on incorporating all the principles of the primal lifestyle, I have had a soda here and there this month,… Read more »
Erin
Erin
5 years 7 months ago
Hi Mark – I’m one of those people that has a diet soda every few days – averaging about 3 cans per week (sometimes 6 per week; sometimes none). Coke Zero is my drink of choice. I am not a person who is crippled with intense sugar cravings that I’m trying to stave off with my Zero. I drink it when I want something refreshing, cold and bubbly to sip on when I’m on the couch relaxing after a long day. Since it has 0 calories and no sugar, I feel like it’s a better choice than, say, drinking a… Read more »
Jen
Jen
5 years 7 months ago
I sometimes feel exactly the way you do. I don’t drink diet soda though because I just don’t like the taste. When I feel like I need something with flavor, I drink some ice tea with a bit of stevia, iced herbal tea, homemade kombucha tea (it’s fizzy sometimes), water kefir (it’s fizzy) or ice water with some fruit slices in it (its amazing what just a bit of the fruit flavor does to glass of water!). Some of those have a little bit of carbs but they also have all kinds of health benefits, too. Give some of them… Read more »
Suvetar
Suvetar
5 years 5 months ago

I didn’t know there are people out there that still count calories.

If a food/beverage is nutritionally high your body uses up calories to process the nutrition.

It’s the ratio of calories/nutrition that’s important. If your body is nutritionally full you won’t even crave your ZERO drink in the first place.

janet
janet
4 years 7 months ago

I too have some crystal lite (1 or 2 glasses a day) but it started to taste really funny and strong after I had strep throat this fall and after taking antibiotcs. While i was sick i could only handle orange juice cut with sparkling water. I hesitate to keep that up but i tried making the crystal lite 2 quart pitcher and then add about 1/2 cup orange juice and the taste is transformed. Really yummy nd takes away the artificial taste. I like the tea nd cold water idea above to.

Melissa Fritcher
5 years 7 months ago
A few years ago we gave up all sodas made with aspartame – for obvious reasons. 20% covers my family for the ‘regular’ ones they might have while out. ~6 months ago, I had to stop drinking the sodas w/ splenda due to some UT/kidney symptoms I experienced (plus it also made my family’s urine smell bad/strong – even my exclusively-nursing son!). It’s also a pretty expensive habit. I will add stevia to mineral water or make my own lemonade, etc. or have hot or cold tea. I, and often my family, will drink unsweet tea or plain water when… Read more »
cors1wfe
cors1wfe
5 years 7 months ago

I too experienced UT/Kidney problems tha manifested in the form of infections that usesless and countless antibiotics did not remedy. Once I started keeping a journal of what I ate AND drank the culprit became clear after a week. I’ll never go back. I use stevia in my coffee and on occasion sweeten a club sode with stevia and add some lime (and a shot a vodka) I don’t feel deprived I like water.

Blue Buddha
5 years 7 months ago

Ever since my husband and I went Primal in December, we have cut out soda entirely; both the regular and the diet. I have had one diet coke in the past 2 months and it lasted me 3 meals.

I do however enjoy calcium carbonated water on occasion. Is that also as bad—dietetically—as diet/reg sodas?

Maryann
5 years 7 months ago
I kicked the diet soda habit long before I decided to try the primal life. I was one of those people who bought a diet soda and a candy bar… you know the zero calorie drink justified the 350 calorie candy bar. A lot of prepared foods including breakfast cerals marketed to children also contain artificial sweeteners. That junk is everywhere, fruit yogurts, granola bars, etc. I have only joined the primal movement a couple of weeks ago, but eating only foods I prepare myself, down to the home made vinaigrette, has certainly made a huge difference in how I… Read more »
Primal K@
5 years 7 months ago

Yaay, congratulations on your efforts!

Maryann
5 years 7 months ago

Thanks! The interesting thing is that I really don’t miss the junk food that much. So, huge results with little effort.
A friend of a friend clued me in, and I will be forever in their debt!

Michelle Fire Eater
Michelle Fire Eater
5 years 7 months ago

Why do they put aspartame in gums and sodas that are already sweet/sweetened with cheaper, better tasting products?

A friend found herself so addicted to diet soda that she was going through several litres a day. First thought in the morning and couldn’t function without it, and GAINING weight. Cut it out cold turkey and actually went through withdrawals.

I wonder if there addictive properties to aspartame. Known and purposefully used. I can’t count the number of people I know who compulsively eat gum. Weird.

Dana
Dana
5 years 7 months ago
Does it never occur to anyone that the fatter people drink more diet soda because they’re under a lot of pressure to cut calories and that was one of the simplest ways they knew to do it? I don’t usually drink mainstream diet soda brands anymore. After switching to coffee for my caffeine intake (I know, I know–kicking the caffeine is next on my agenda), I realized that aspartame *does* give me a slight headache, and worse if I drink too much of it, so I am running out of reasons to bother. But switching to diet sodas was an… Read more »
Lori
5 years 7 months ago

I was thinking the same thing about the diet sodas related to weight: it’s a relationship, it doesn’t show cause.

I like Zevia ginger root beer. It’s expensive, but sometimes I enjoy something cold and fizzy. I used to love Coke Zero, but it makes my face break out.

jj
jj
5 years 7 months ago

The Fowler & Williams study cited above, with the dose-response relationship was a prospective cohort study. Which means that they measured weight and soda/diet soda consumption at the beginning of the study and then looked at weight gain over a span of several years. I’m not sure why normal weight people who were destined to gain weight (perhaps because of some unmeasured factor X) would be feel pressure to drink more diet soda than normal weight people who were not destined to gain weight.

Marshall
Marshall
5 years 1 month ago
I could imagine people destined to gain weight feeling more pressure to drink diet sodas as they did so. They see their weight increasing and respond by drinking more diet soda out of a mistaken belief that it will cause them to lose weight when in fact their metabolism and eating habits are to blame. Plausible? I’m one who has no issue drinking diet sodas and has not gained any appreciable weight over the years. Despite the fact that studies are inconclusive & no scientific consensus exists, many people have an automatic reaction to the idea of an artificial sweetener… Read more »
andre Chimene
4 years 7 months ago

I have enjoyed every comment from you that I have come accross. I look forward to many more.

trackback

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alex Shalman, Jenn Stone, FitnessDoc, Patrick O'Sullivan, JeffieLibrarian and others. JeffieLibrarian said: RT @jennstonel: This is why I rarely drink soda – diet or regular. -> Is Diet Soda Healthy? | Mark's Daily Apple http://bit.ly/f8uety […]

Annie
Annie
5 years 7 months ago
I’m one of those people who eat very clean and my last vice is the diet cola. I drink 4 per day…have tried stopping cold turkey. The stuff is an addiction for me. I will get headaches in the morning if I don’t have 2 cans of Coke zero right away. I believe drinking the soda has a lot to do with why I cannot drop my last few pounds. I have been stuck at the same weight for years…my age is no help either (52) ..I think if I could kick the diet soda, I’d drop those last 5… Read more »
Blake
Blake
5 years 7 months ago

Annie —

I have found seltzer water to be a big help, initially flavored and then not flavored. I also added another small cup of coffee around lunch (in addition to my morning cup) to help with any caffeine cravings.

But the seltzer water hits the need for something carbonated, and I’ve found that helps. Not totally – I still get the odd craving for a Coke Zero, but it goes away.

Rory
Rory
5 years 7 months ago

I’ve also found club soda to be a big help with beer cravings. It gives you that feeling of ritual — cold and bubbly — without the naughtiness. (Not that I never slip….)

Nick
Nick
5 years 7 months ago

I’ve also been able to kick the soda habit by switching to carbonated water. I used to be a 3-4 sodas a day; then I switched to the same number of diet sodas per day.

I thought it was a caffeine addiction so I switched to unsweetened tea, but I still craved sodas like mad.

I started buying carbonated water with flavors, but the flavors were too fake and gross to me. I started just buying regular carbonated water and adding a squeeze of lime. I no longer crave sweet drinks at all.

Rebecca
Rebecca
5 years 7 months ago

Also, found carbonated water to be the answer to our (esp. hubby) diet soda cravings. We make our own us the soda stream system (www.sodastream.com)

Rebecca
Rebecca
5 years 7 months ago

that’s *using* the soda stream system

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 7 months ago

i went cold turkey on my coffee habit–it was painful but after a week, it was over

Hank Garner
5 years 7 months ago

After hitting a plateau, I removed all artificial sweeteners from my diet and I started losing again right away. Great post.

Kishore
Kishore
5 years 7 months ago

Mark, is there an insulin response from artificial sweeteners or is the body smart enough to release insulin only if real sugar is consumed?

Primal K@
5 years 7 months ago

I never faired well with Aspartame. My reaction was always the same, a sore throat and nausea.

Best to avoid the stuff altogether, though. It tastes horrible to me and I can never fathom how my friends can throw the cans down their throat regularly.

Matt
5 years 7 months ago
I dropped the diet soda about 3 months after going primal. I will still have some occasionally but I notice once I do the sugar cravings do get worse and 1 Diet Mountain Dew sometimes leads to 2 or even three in a day. I just try to avoid it when possible. I have switched to those drop ins you add to water, particularly peach mango green tea. They have the artificial sweetener as well but I add a packet to 50 oz. of water instead of the prescribed 16 oz. My goal is to delete these from the intake… Read more »
Jim Jones
Jim Jones
5 years 7 months ago

“Dr Merrill advises his patients to drink calorie-free ‘diet’ sodas to prevent weight gain and its associated morbitities, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

yeah keep drinking the Kool-Aid doc!

Gorm
Gorm
5 years 7 months ago

Soda and diet soda are about as healthy as styrofoam is environmentally friendly. I vote to erradicate both from the planet.

Graham
Graham
5 years 7 months ago

I chew artificially sweetened gum fairly often. Trident Freshmint, ooh baby! I wouldn’t call it compulsive, but I do chew it after ~50% of my meals (if I have a pack kickin’ around…which I usually do). NEVER while fasting though – it makes me hungry!

Other than that its the odd dab of stevia extract in yogurt or coconut cream with berries for dessert. Anyone have any thoughts on stevia? I find on its own it’s pretty nasty, but its great for increasing the natural sweetness of fruits!

jack
jack
5 years 7 months ago

How about xlitol? I use it when I can on strawberries and coffee. They should use it diet drinks too.

Katie
5 years 7 months ago

Unfortunately, most xylitol is made with genetically modified corn unless is says otherwise and there are some theories about health problems caused by GMO foods. Not to mention, they keep the sweet cravings alive.

Aaron Curl
5 years 7 months ago

I have been drinking diet pop for 20 years. It’s definitely time I quit. I do notice a craving for sugar when I drink to much. I have in the past ran to the grocery and bought ice cream to satisfy my sugar craving. Not good. And whats weird is….I have never been a sweets person. I never craved sugary things like cookies, cake and ice cream. There is something in diet pop that makes me crave sugar. I have been cutting way back in the last 6 months but it’s high time I quit!

Brittany
Brittany
5 years 7 months ago

I agree, drinking soda is addicting. If I drink a Diet Coke today I will want one tomorrow. If I don’t drink a Diet Coke today I won’t want one tomorrow.

Soda is bizzarly addicting…..

Brittany
Brittany
5 years 7 months ago
I know for a fact that diet sodas or any type of soda is not healthy because of the way it makes me feel; bloating, headaches, heartburn. However, I think there is a correlation with people who drink diet soda and people who eat junk food. Obviousley, people who like to drink soda also like to eat junk which explains why soda drinkers tend to be overweight. But lets not forget all of those “alternate” people who drink energy drinks instead of soda. Energy drinks are just as unhealthy as soda and most people I see downing energy drinks are… Read more »
Ali
Ali
5 years 7 months ago

I love the bubbles in carbonated drinks and drink diet soda to avoid the calories. I’ve tried a few times to cut them out with no avail. Your post, and the points you make about the various chemicals in diet soda, may be just the kick I need to drop them for good. Thanks 8)

Sonia
5 years 7 months ago

Have you thought about using seltzer or carbonated mineral water and adding a splash of fruit juice?

rob
rob
5 years 7 months ago

Adding a splash of fruit juice to carbonated water is no different than adding a splash of Coca Cola to carbonated water.

Jenny
Jenny
5 years 7 months ago

Yes, but either way it’s not a diet soda.

Stephanie
Stephanie
5 years 7 months ago

Of course, it’s different. A splash of pomegranate or a twist of lemon, lime or orange, is much better than a chemical splash, especially if one is trying to break an addiction to chemicals.

kem
kem
5 years 7 months ago

We love our Soda Stream. Just a little squeeze of lemon or a dash of our homegrown blackcurrant cordial… delicious.

Alison Golden
5 years 7 months ago
I eat and drink very clean but I simply adore a diet soda on a very hot day…for a few sips. My desire for diet soda has an inverse relationship to the quality of food I eat – the better the food, the lower the desire for diet soda and other junk. And vice versa. And I have to say that while I we can’t say for sure if it harms us, it sure can’t do us any good in the long run. So I stay off and let my kids have it a very once in a while so… Read more »
rob
rob
5 years 7 months ago

I drink diet soda like there was no tomorrow, haven’t seen any negative effects at all.

I stick to the ones that taste good to me, avoid the ones that don’t taste good.

Laurie
Laurie
5 years 7 months ago

I’d like to know what Mark and everyone thinks about the new sodas that are sweetened with stevia and erythritol and are free of phosphoric acid, like Zevia and Hansens’s Blue Sky. I have one of these a few times a week and am wondering how unhealthy they are.

Mike
Mike
11 months 17 days ago

I’d like to know that too.

CavePainter
CavePainter
5 years 7 months ago
When I consume Aspartame I end up with sores on my gums. It also makes me feel a bit loopy and occasionally triggers a migraine. Sucralose trips me out because the sweet tastes doesn’t go away. Even 30 minutes after consuming it I still have a sweet aftertaste in my mouth. Luckily I was never a big soda drinker. As a kid my parents never kept soda in the house and when we went out to eat I was only allowed one glass of soda. I remember as a teenager going to friends houses and they would have case stacks… Read more »
Rory
Rory
5 years 7 months ago
About 13 months ago, I kicked a very nasty diet soda habit (5 or 6 cans a day) cold turkey. It took nine days of headaches to clear the caffeine and chemical withdrawal (whereas caffeine withdrawals I’d had in prior years from regular soda were only about two days long). I’ve never looked back, keep my Nalgene of water close at hand at work, and only recently started drinking the occasional caffeinated tea during the day. Once you get that junk out of your system for a couple of weeks, you’re no longer used to the nasty metallic, fake sweetener… Read more »
ashley
ashley
4 years 2 months ago
Old post..but wanted to say that it took me 9 days to get over the headache,bad lipids,and overall hung over feeling of getting off diet coke too.. omg I felt like my bones were rubbing each other when I moved and my head was going to explode. But its been 3 weeks today since I cut caffeine and all fake sweeteners (have been real sugar free for 3 years) and I feel awesome. Not nearly as snacky as I was and I’m finally back in ketosis. I still think about coke zero,but then I remember how my body ached for… Read more »
ashley
ashley
4 years 2 months ago

Ha…bad moods..not lipids..auto correct is strange…

Malin
5 years 7 months ago

Maybe this makes me an odd duck, but I never liked Soda. Not as a child, not as an adult. Didn’t like that sharp tingly feel from the carbon dioxide, I’d rather drink fruit juice for a treat.

These days I actually prefer water, cool and unflavoured. Well, unless someone’s hiding a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon under the table 😉

rob
rob
5 years 7 months ago

I avoid fruit juice entirely. Rather than drink a glass of apple juice I have an apple or two, that way I get much less sugar, some fiber, and feel more full.

Instead of a glass of orange juice, I eat a nice naval orange.

Haven’t had fruit juice since 2008.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 7 months ago
Not at all – I’ve always hated the stuff too! I have a mate and I had to FORCE her on to the diet stuff as she was getting through about 8-10 litres PER DAY of the regular kind (that’s 5 bottles or about 1.4kgs of sugar. I did the handing her a bag of granulated and a spoon thing – she just didn’t get it… She has arthritis (she’s 45 now) and is 22 stone. She didn’t get that she was probably consuming about 8,000-10,000 calories a day (most of it sugar and other simple carbs) I’m still trying… Read more »
TJ
TJ
5 years 7 months ago

What is 22 stone?

Viking
Viking
5 years 7 months ago

22 stone = 308 lbs.

Gregg
Gregg
5 years 7 months ago

1 stone = 14#, so 22 = 308#

Apollonius
Apollonius
5 years 7 months ago

I was pretty much eating primal before I bought the book, had lost 120 lb already, and beat insulin resistance and high triglycerides. Blood work is very clean and blood pressure low, CRP is .4.

I don’t drink or smoke, but just could not give up Monster Low Carb. I don’t like any other sodas.

I lost the weight and turned things around anyway, with my Monster Low Carb. I’m sure it was no help, but it didn’t block the turnaround either.

I agree I should find something better, but I would not agree that it blocks you

Peggy
Peggy
5 years 7 months ago

I was never a big soda drinker and tried a diet this & diet that & hated all of them. I agree with the others that sometimes you really want the bubbly something to quench your thirst. My “splurge” is a homemade ginger drink (sweetened with honey) that is diluted with some Perrier or Pelligrino.

Hannah
5 years 7 months ago

I have never been a huge soda drinker, so for me giving it up was not a big deal, I honestly just don’t get how soda would even fall into primal living? We all make such an effort to avoid foods that have all of this crap in it why is a beverage any different? I would much rather have the occasional glass of wine instead of a soda.

Lark
Lark
5 years 7 months ago

I find kombucha to be a very satisfying replacement for pop, diet or otherwise. You can easily brew it at home if you dont like the commercial stuff. It has a small amount of carbohydrate depending on how long you let it ferment before drinking and is very refreshing. Not sure how paleo it is because the culture requires sugar but the sugar is mostly fermented out.

Sonia
5 years 7 months ago

Lucky for me I’ve never really been a fan of soda. But I LOOOOOVE carbonated mineral water!

thehova
thehova
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t think I would have been able to kick my soda habit without mineral water. I love it.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t drink soda of any kind – diet or otherwise.

I do, occasionally, drink 3-4 glasses per day of sucralose-sweetened squash, which I always dilute to half the recommended dilution. The ingredients include the following: –

Citric Acid
Sodium Citrate
Malic Acid
Potassium Sorbate
Sodium Metabisulphite

As far as I know, these all have clean toxicology reports.

it is 50% fruit-juice, though, which is why I dilute it to half the recommended strength (makes it about 0.5g carb per serving as opposed to 1).

Least I now know it won’t kill me!

Andrew
Andrew
5 years 7 months ago

Diet soda’s give me headaches, just one can is enough to trigger one. It’s simply over priced (more expensive than petrol in Australia), utterly pointless, addictive rubbish, get rid of it from your diet!

Water, unsweetened coffee & tea, and the occasional bourbon/scotch is all I need.

Formidable
Formidable
5 years 7 months ago
Great post M! This post sent me into my archives for a couple gems I don’t see mentioned here. First up, try Googling “The Brain May Not Be Fooled by Sugar Substitutes” for an L.A. Times article a while back. Apparently, your brain knows the difference between real carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners as soon as the are in you mouth and regardless of whether you can consciously tell the difference or not. Wonder how this is affecting our satiety and appetite responses? I wonder how the athletes would have performed in the above-mentioned mouth-swish study if half of them had… Read more »
Karla
Karla
5 years 7 months ago

Just a thought about your coffee……what flavor are you trying to hide with the sweetener? I like the first couple sips of hot coffee, but it starts to get too acid tasting for me. I find adding heavy cream actually sweetens it enough and I look forward to it. May just try it… and a good fat in the process. Some use coconut oil or cream I have heard.

Formidable
Formidable
5 years 7 months ago

I’m with you, I really don’t like totally black coffee. I dropped the sweetener altogether a while back and just used heavy cream, as you suggest. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my M.D. has asked me to be casein-free for a while – no cow’s or goat’s milk of any type or amount.

I could give the coconut milk a try, though. That might work.

Elliott
Elliott
5 years 7 months ago

Aspartame….Yuummmm. Especially when you find out that it was produced using the feces of the e-coli bacteria. It’s a nearly a bio weapon. You know what else is sweet tasting too?? Anit-freeze. I live in Japan and Aspartame is Illegal in this country, does that tell you anything? Look into it and try to get out of your body.
Great article but please don’t let this toxic substance be underestimated.

SkepticScientist
SkepticScientist
5 years 1 month ago

Um, if people can eat chicken feet and cow’s eyes…what’s the difference?

Ron
5 years 7 months ago

So what is a “high quality full-fat ice cream?” I’ve been having ice cream cravings like crazy latey, so I’d like to know a good brand to buy.

Ron
5 years 7 months ago

All of the organic or “natural” ones I’ve found (Horizon and Haggen Daz “Five”) use non-fat milk. Luna & Larry’s coconut milk ice cream is good, but sometimes I want the real thing.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 7 months ago

Is B&J’s any good over there? The stuff over here’s not bad (it even contains coconut oil; the only problem for me (Choc Macadamia’s my favourite) is the soya lecithin, as I try to avoid all soy products).

My treat of choice, though, is the one from a lady I know in town. She makes it herself, from scratch, so I know exactly what goes in it!!

You’ve now given me an ice-cream craving, ya evil git!

Karla
Karla
5 years 7 months ago
Have you thought of making your own? You can control the ingredients and amount of sugar. My grandkids love it when we take 1 cup of heavy cream (raw if I can find it) placed in a quart baggie, add a small amount of sugar and place the quart bag in a bigger bag and surround it with ice and rock salt. The kids get to work the bags until ice cream forms and then add berries (picked from the yard), coconut, dark chocolate or anything that I have on hand. Really good and not that bad for you, and… Read more »
Jason
Jason
5 years 7 months ago

I used to drink a ton of soda back when I was a blimp.(5’6″ 330#) since going primal about a year now (been at 99% for a month now with 1 cheat meal that made me sick) when I desire something sweet to drink, I cut up fruit and put it in a pitcher of ice water. I also am enjoying sliced cucumber in ice water too.. Occasionally I will have a soda, but I have one and done. Definitly get cravings after though.

Kristjan @ Paleo Gateway
5 years 7 months ago

I used to be quite keen on sprite zero for a while, but I replaced it with water and right now I think pretty much every kind of soda, diet or not, tastes like horror.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 7 months ago

I don’t know if anyone has tried this but I have recently heard of making something called kefir sodas with water kefir grains. I have ordered some of them myself but have yet to receive them so I don’t have a personal testimony to their taste. I’ve never been addicted to soda or anything, but I do enjoy drinking bubbly beverages from time to time and with using the water kefir grains to make this you are getting some probiotics as well.

Jen
Jen
5 years 7 months ago
Tara
5 years 7 months ago

I will occasionally allow myself to have a diet coke… usually when I’m around family members that drink it often, but after reading this, man, I am SO done.

Gross and not worth it.

Shiela Marvel
5 years 7 months ago

Honest to goodness, I’ve never had any soda for 5years now. I made it as my New Year’s resolution years ago and I’m just so proud to still stick to this very day.

Indiscreet
Indiscreet
5 years 7 months ago
I had a bad experience with aspartame a couple of years ago, but I was consuming excessive amounts. Basically, I got hooked on sugar free gum to the extent that it was definitely a compulsive behaviour (I was chewing up to 40 pieces of Orbit daily – I’d chew a piece, then add a second and a third, until the flavour started to go. Then I’d spit that out and start again). I only chewed at work, mind you, but that was enough. The sorbitol (a laxative, I might add) in the gum gave me painful gas after a few… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
5 years 7 months ago

I am a faithful Diet Coke drinker, and reading this does make me want to stop. However, I wonder if it’s pointless to stop the Diet Coke if I still intend to use Equal in my yogurt and other products I want to sweeten? I guess I just don’t know enough about acceptable (Primal) natural and artificial sweeteners to be able to see the bigger picture here…

Katie
5 years 7 months ago

Mark, you didn’t include what I figured would be the core of your post- Grok certainly did not consume anything resembling soda, diet or otherwise. Sure, it may not kill you right away, but from a primal perspective, it has no health benefits and possible health concerns. Wouldn’t that fall under the “avoid poisonous things” category?

Mark Sisson
5 years 7 months ago
Katie, you are right in that Grok did not consume anything like soda, and there are no health benefits to be derived from doing so. As you can see from some of the comments, even some dedicated long time Primal converts still sneak a diet soda (or more) once in a while. The stuff is ubiquitous. MDA is about finding ways to incorporate the Primal Blueprint principles into real life. I want people to understand the possible ramifications of their choices. I write pieces like this almost more to appeal to first-time visitors who really haven’t a clue than to… Read more »
Gayle
Gayle
5 years 7 months ago

Hi I gave up diet soda. Hansen’s Diet Ginger ale was my favorite. Drank 4-6 a day.
Now all I drink is water and sometimes herbal tea.
I also drink perrier or other unsweetened sparkling water to get the ‘fizz’ that i miss from soda. Is carbonated water fine?

Susan
Susan
5 years 7 months ago

Aspartame is the reason I had 20 years of horrendous migraines. Haven’t had any sort of headache for the last year, tho, after purging my cabinets and fridge of aspartame-containing items, including syrup, pickled ginger, Jello and chewing gum. Trident cinnamon is the only gum I’ve found that’s aspartame-free, and there are a few diet sodas sweetened with sucralose rather than aspartame.

Dawn
Dawn
5 years 7 months ago

Sucralose & Acesulfame-K are exactly what gave me horrendous migraines, though! I don’t think it’s much of an improvement over aspartame.

Lucy
Lucy
5 years 7 months ago

I second that. Awful migraines from sucralose.

rauth
rauth
5 years 7 months ago

I’m a dedicated diet soda drinker who gives this a lot of consideration . Wishing to test the theory that artificial sweeteners cause insulin response; I measured my blood sugar before drinking soda, then at various intervals after and there was no fluctuation .

rauth
rauth
5 years 7 months ago

Also… fearing that it might somehow effect my training negatively I abstained for two weeks and experienced know appreciable difference. That being said, I’m still convinced that it’s killing me somehow.

wpDiscuz