The Not So Definitive Guide to Diet Soda

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!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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185 thoughts on “The Not So Definitive Guide to Diet Soda”

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    1. 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.

  1. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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 – we go though a couple gallons a day (3 of us) and stave-off dehydration.

        1. 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.

        2. 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)

        3. 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!

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

    2. 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 definite nasty effect on your health, i avoid it as much as possible, however one can of soda once in a while will not kill you, i don’t drink any.
      For those not convinced i saw a while ago a documentary, that really put the dangers of this chemicals in perspective, watch “sweet misery” .


  2. 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 with something I don’t have! (though my reaction to aspartame, at least, is very well documented) My first incident of it occurred when I was twelve (when my mom decided that Crystal Light was the Solution to my full-sugar-Kool Aid habit). I am now thirty, so that’s quite a track record.

    It’s hit the point where I have to keep telling people “no, really, it’s okay” when they suggest I try their New Artifical Sweetener of Choice in a soft drink. It’s like, look: aspertame certainly makes me sick at any high dose (whatever is probably in my toothpaste or whatever is fine, a single piece of sugarless gum probably won’t make me sick, but a diet coke WILL) so WHY THE HECK would I want to “experiment” with other ones?… So I can go “Maybe this one will only make my heart beat a *little* weird?…

    It’s a heck of a lot easier to just not drink the soft drink.

    My reaction seems to be pretty atypical–I’ve heard artificial sweetener horror stories but never another like mine that end in being hooked up to one of those little heart rate machines and stared at by a doctor and four interns for twenty minutes. So I’m reluctant to extrapolate from that that “everybody reacts badly to artificial sweeteners.” I certainly do, though.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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 gotta keep up with the exercise requirements… ugh! LOL.

    3. 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, specifically when I’ve given in to the temptations of fast food or if I have mexican food (for some reason a soda is just awesome with mexican food). I’ve been lucky that it hasn’t sent me down the path of binge eating this month as falling off the band wagon has been known to do to me in the past. Like you, the 20% rule wouldn’t help me in the long run, because I’ll be likely to continually crave those nasty foods and further inhibit my health goals in the process. I want to give myself at least a month of 100% primal before I slip into once a week, or once every two weeks, or once a month meals that are less than primal ideal. I’ve been very proud of myself this month as it’s definitely been a mile stone for me in reducing the frequency in which I eat out. I’ve also seen that by reducing my sugar intake, that I’m now able to enjoy my teas without some kind of sweetner, and that is something I never thought I’d be able to do! It makes me wonder what other bad habitual things might change that I’ve said ‘never’ to.

      I have to also mention here, since it applies to the post, though I think I may have mentioned it in another post awhile back that I once witnessed a young pregnant woman dump about 15 packets of SweetN’Low in her coffee at Starbucks! This was maybe a year or so ago. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and wouldn’t even want to imagine what that would taste like! It’s not coffee anymore at that point! bleh!! I was waiting for her to move so I could have access to the napkins, and straws, and the one half a splenda packet I wanted to put in my tea. I wish I would have said something, but I didn’t know enough about the effects of artificial sweetners on the unborn to give her good enough reason to not use it. I was also strangely curious to find out just how many she’d use and wondered how often she drank her beverages like that. *shutter*

  4. 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 big glass or two of orange juice which – although delicious and nutritious – has more calories than I think I should be consuming at 9:00 at night when I’ve already wrapped up my calorie consumption for the day. It’s kind of backwards thinking, I suppose, that Coke Zero is the *healthy* choice I’m making for my calorie/sugar intake over OJ, but there it is.

    I drink tons of water all day long, and sometimes I just don’t want any more water! I want an enjoyable beverage with some FLAVOUR – but preferably not at the expense of botching my daily calorie intake. Maybe that winds up being some Crystal Light powder in a bottle of water, a can of Coke Zero or a squeeze of lemon in my Gerolsteiner. The beverage of choice varies, but it’s always about enjoying a drink without obsessing about what’s in it or not in it. I guess I turn a blind eye to the chemicals… Ha?

    Because my “habit” is pretty recreational, I can’t say I’ve noticed weight gain related to it. I think there are some interesting theories, though – especially this one: “…leading to hunger that isn’t really there and perhaps even insulin to handle dietary glucose that was never actually eaten.” I have sometimes wondered if “faking out” my body by drinking faux sugary beverages might be sending my insulin balance out of whack. Maybe I’ll try a 30-day diet beverage cleanse and see what happens. (I’ll just switch to wine instead. *smile*)

    1. 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 a try during your 30-day trial!

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

  5. 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 eating out. Not to say I don’t still sometimes miss the sodas, but the pain I went through is still fresh in my mind and I’m more than happy to avoid that happening again.

    1. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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 feel already. 8 pounds down, 12-15 to go!

      1. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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 important step in kicking mainstream soda entirely, which was a big deal for me, because for most of the last twenty years I have had a wicked full-sugar soda habit that (I) just would not quit. Yes, the stuff can function as a sort of methadone drink. But just as methadone isn’t a sure thing for heroin addicts, diet soda’s not a sure thing either. It depends on the person and the situation.

    Now mind you, it isn’t a matter of EITHER drink diet soda OR drink water, and EITHER drink sucralose/aspartame OR avoid diet soda entirely. And this is the story of how, even though I no longer drink 2 liters of Diet Dew a day, I still sometimes drink diet soda. I just drink Zevia or Diet Rite now, because I’ve uncoupled my soda consumption from my caffeine consumption. I actually prefer Zevia, to tell you the truth–it tastes more “real” somehow. That’s the one with stevia and erythritol in it.

    But even with that it’s a treat, not a regular thing. (Zevia’s expensive, and I find that if I have soda around, I keep after it til it’s gone. Can’t do that, it’d break the bank.) I’m much better about drinking water now.

    The other reason I had quit Diet Dew is it’s made with brominated vegetable oil. I was startled to learn that bromine is in the halogen group on the periodic table, just like iodine is. My TSH is just a hair over 1.0 (anything over 1.0 seems to be associated with more chronic disease) and I had had a weird autoimmune flareup during my last pregnancy and then a bunch of weight gain postpartum. I realized I didn’t need to be offering any more insults to my thyroid, assuming it’s suffered enough already.

    Sucralose doesn’t necessarily bother me though. Ace-K doesn’t either. Actually, when I was still trying to low-carb and drink lots of Diet Dew, I made an interesting discovery–if I drank enough Diet Dew, I didn’t get muscle cramps in ketosis. I guess I was getting enough potassium from the ace-K and the couple of other potassium compounds in the drink. Oh the irony, but these days I’d rather get that from avocados and meat, you know?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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 despite the fact that they’re all completely different from one another. Even entirely natural sweeteners like Stevia are getting their detractors.

          Personally, I think it’s pretty safe to say that in moderation, diet sodas are pretty benign and if they add satisfaction to your life then what’s the problem?

  10. 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 pounds.

    Funny thing is, years ago, aspartame used to make me nuts..brought on panic attacks. So I did manage to cut out the aspartame for awhile…that is, until the doctor prescribed Zoloft for my nervousness. No more panic attacks so I started drinking the diet stuff again.

    I need real help to kick the habit…no kidding.

    1. 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.

      1. 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….)

      2. 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.

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

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

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

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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 soon and just do plain ol’ ice water.

  15. “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!

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

  17. 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!

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

    1. 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.

  19. 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!

    1. 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…..

  20. 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 overweight as well.

  21. 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)

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

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

        1. 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.

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

  22. 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 they can hold their heads up with their friends.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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 of soda in their pantries and multiple 2 liter bottles in the fridge. I was shocked and amazed.

    After high school my friends were all huge soda drinkers, 32 oz Big Gulps, then 44 oz, etc. I noticed early on that when I drank soda it didn’t actually quench my thirst. In fact it actually make me even thirstier. I thought to myself, “what’s that point of drinking this stuff” and switched to water and only had the occasional soda as a special treat. Later on I gave it up completely. The only things I drink now are water, coffee (no sweetener), wine, and tea.

    I was a gum addict for many years, but I found it harder and harder to find gum that didn’t have any artificial sweetener in it. Even some gums that didn’t list artificial sweetener on the label give me problems so I had to give it up all together.

  26. 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 taste and diet soda is disgusting once again. Keeps you from going back!

    1. 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 a week and a half and get over it. Congrats on quitting!

  27. 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 😉

    1. 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.

    2. 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 to get her on to water. He fiance’s a big lad too… If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say they weighed about 50 stone altogether…

      I drink sparkling water, sometimes with a slice of lemon and/or lime (squeeze it into the water first and you’re drinking a zero calorie ‘soda’ that’s doing you good!)

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

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

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

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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 gotten artificially sweetened liquid?

    Also, check out “Artificial Sweetener May Disrupt Body’s Ability To Count Calories” from ScienceDaily in 2004. The researchers contend that artificial sweeteners break our body’s ability to register how much food we’ve eaten.

    After all that, though, I’m still struggling with the stuff. If I give up artificial sweeteners, that means I have to give up coffee. Scary.


    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  36. 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.

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

  37. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

    2. 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 you can control the amount you have to eat unlike that quart or half gallon calling to you from the freezer.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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 hours, but worse than that, I started to experience hormonal fluctuations (I am female and my cycle got completely out of whack, which I initially thought was down to my age, having just turned 40 – but that turned out not to be the case), I got spaced out and felt dizzy often, I had palpitations, then my immune system went down the toilet and I contracted very virus going for about 8 months including a cold, influenza and bronchitis, a 48 hour vomiting but, and on top of that, bad cystitis.
    I did some ‘net research and found a site detailing various symptoms of aspartame poisoning, and many of mine were listed. I went gum cold turkey and also stopped drinking Diet Coke. Within a few months I was better.

    I guess in limited doses, it’s not all that bad, but I do view it as a poison, and one that I am very wary about consuming again. I stick to water now, if I want a cold drink, and I leave gum well alone.

  43. 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…

  44. 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?

    1. 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 die-hard MDAers, because real life still offers temptations. This piece just took a look at the existing science behind what happens when you drink soda. No judgment (Okay, maybe just a little). And, yes, it still falls into “avoid poisonous things.”

  45. 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?

  46. 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.

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

  47. 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 .

    1. 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.

  48. I notice that a number of my larger very non-primal co-workers will order burger & fries for lunch or a giant burrito, along with a diet soda — as if the soda is a nod toward watching their calories. There is definitely a disconnect here…

  49. I began drinking diet sodas in the’70s. I was very thin at the time.It did not cause weight gain or sugar cravings.I did refrain from drinking soda, of any kind, while pregnant.

    Diet Pepsi was my lifeline for many years when I was suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease. I’m sure it was the caffeine that helped me function and take care of my children.

    My weight gain was directly correlated to my thyroid issues. A little over 2 years ago, I was finally adequately medicated in regards to thyroid. By this time I was 65+ pounds overweight.

    Today finds me 65lbs lighter. I lost the weight while consuming several cans of Diet Pepsi daily. My bone density, once in the osteopenia range, has improved and is now normal. My fasting blood sugar in Oct,2010 was 83, fasting insulin was <2, HbA1c-4.7.

    Around Thanksgiving 2010 I decided to do the Whole30 challenge to see if I could give up my Diet Pepsi. I went 50 days without DP and then,deliberately, drank one can. It didn't taste as good as I remember and gave me indigestion. I haven't had any more since that one can.

    I don't think DP creates any issues for me. I have no plans to return to my "many cans a day" habit. I think I'll just take it day by day. Today I am DP free.

  50. This is a big deal to me, There are (were) 3 women in my immediate family diagnosed with MS. They were all heavy. They were advised to lose weight. They all started low fat diets. They all developed Gallstones and had their gallbladders removed. They all suffer from Migraines. One had diabetes. THEY ALL DRANK MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF DIET SODA TO LOSE WEIGHT. MS is NOT supposed to be hereditary! There is a link between diet soda/artificial sweeteners and MS. If you know of any further research in this department please post!
    (FYI) I avoid all artificial sweeteners because I have had some brutal migraines that can only be associated with them, and I fixed my own gallbladder after being scheduled for surgery with a HIGH FAT diet…lol

    1. I have MS and I do know that they claim MS and aspartame do not mix well ,and diagnosising MS if you are a die hard diet pop drinker can be a little harder ,as to much aspartame will mimic the sign’s of MS . I have been told by my Dr’s that I would be so much better off drinking regular pop rather than diet if I was going to continue drinking pop .I have almost quit completely with no side affect and I was a die hard 3 to 4 two liters a day of Diet Pepsi or Diet Dr Pepper .I have gone to ice tea ,and seem to be doing better .

  51. A model of scientific objectivity. I used to have one or two diet Cokes per day in hot weather, some in cooler. Now I might have one or two a week in hot weather, none in cooler. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight. They taste better, and less sweet than Cokes with sugar. I don’t get a sweet response from them at all, nor an unpleasant one.

  52. On a lighter (pun intended) note, I worked for Outback Steakhouse for 13 years and was always amazed at how overweight people would order Cheese fries or a Bloomin onion…and a diet for real? It isnt going to negate the trash you are about to consume..

    1. I used to work at a buffet. It was not uncommon to see obese guests order diet coke, then return to the buffet line 3 or 4 times.

    2. Not a big deal – just goes to show that they too prefer the taste of the diet better…cuz they certainly ones to choose for health reasons.

  53. Stevia – in rats, it stimulates pancreatic beta cells to produce insulin. Im wondering if this is why (despite low carb diet with great attention to low glycemic veg) my A1c is in the 5.5-5.8 range (should be in 4s low 5s). Fasting BS are low 80s. Could be that ketogenic diet has me somewhat insulin resistant, but looking forward to your upcoming article with more thoughts on this. It is my biggest remaining “vice” but at 19 BMI and less that 15% body fat, I kind of “rely” on it.

  54. I don’t really drink soda (softdrink in Australia) and never have. Mum always made us drink a truckload of water before we were allowed any where near juice as kids. And until I ‘went primal’ I always diluted juice in 2 parts water (too sweet). But the real reason I’m adding to this discussion was a memory I have that always springs to mind when I think about obesity and soda.

    I was in a shopping centre one day and heard an obese little girl (4 or 5 years I guess) who was being pushed around in a trolley by her mother (who was a little overweight but not obese). The little girl had a diet coke with a straw in her hands, and said to her mother ‘Mum, I’m thirsty’. Her mother scoffed and said, ‘You have a drink stop complaining’. I nearly cried.

  55. I have never had one can/bottle/cup of soda in my life. My mother never gave it to me, and I never wanted it. Sure, it made me the “weird kid” at birthday parties growing up, but I never wanted a drink that made “my tongue hurt.”

    Fast forward to being an adult and I think it is one of the reasons why I have always been healthier than most Americans. All of that water or even juice and milk instead of soda over the years has really paid off!

    The sad part is that when people hear that I’ve never had a soft drink, people think I’m from Mars or something. How did I survive the 80s as a kid, during the height of the cola wars, without trying one? No Pepsi taste test, really? People think it is crazy that I have not put such things in my body, wouldn’t Grok think it was crazy if I did? 🙂

  56. I enjoyed your read on diet sodas and sweeteners! My boyfriend and I avoid all kinds of soda at all costs for that reason of them containing strange chemicals. However, with regards to sweeteners, we have had extreme difficulty finding good protein mixes for ease and protein supplements when on the go that don’t contain some form of artificial sweetener. I think this whole artificial sweetener thing is the new HFCS to help accomodate the sweet palates of Americans. Now that we’ve cut out most sweets in our diets we find that the artificial sweeteners are too sweet and don’t sit well in our bellies. We recently have found all natural whey protein that we can purchase in bulk and find it much more satisfying.

    1. Isopure makes a whey protien isolate that is flavor free–no artificial anything–just pure whey protien. I occasionally mix it with 8 ounces of coconut milk, 4 ounces of water and a bit of vanilla extract. If I’m recovering from a workout, I’ll add a frozen banana (if not, a few berries for fewer carbs.)

  57. I don’t do diet, but I do have a slight addiction to Coca Cola & Whiskey (Jim Beam specifically). mmmn.. Anyway, only on the weekends (Fri & Sat night), then drink only water during the week (except the morning cup of coffee & occasional beer). I do love this combo but know I would be much better off without it. Maybe this can squeak by as part of my 20%??

  58. Meh, to me diet soda is just a cop out for people who want to feel good about doing something healthy but truly aren’t. Be comfortable with your choice and either choose to drink it or not, don’t straddle the fence and think you’re doing well.

  59. Thanks for the post Mark. Very informative. I was unaware that the jury was still out on the effects of phosphoric acid.

    I consider myself lucky–I’ve found most soda to unpalatable slop once I got past the age of about 14, and diet soda to be slightly less appetizing than a bile burp (which, incidentally, diet soda causes me to have, so it’s like double the fun,) so I can’t imagine what it would be like to be addicted to it. My heart goes out to those who can’t kick the habit.

    One of the doctors on “The Doctors” called soda “a cigarette in a can.” Although I find myself facepalming at a lot of what they say on that show, I really liked this. Except that, on the whole, I think the soda might arguably be worse for the human body.

  60. I’ve loved diet soda for years and never had any ill effects or felt any craving for sweets (my downfalls are fat and salt, not sugar; pass me that pepperoni, pal). However, in December I kicked the caffeinated soda habit not because of health concerns per se, although I hoped cutting caffeine might reduce my stress, but for environmental reasons; too many cans, even though I recycle. So far, so good, although there’s some suggestion that caffeine is good for you. I don’t really want to renew my addiction, but…?

  61. Great post Mark!

    What some people may not realize is that Splenda (it sounds so festive, doesn’t it?) was discovered in 1989 by two researchers, Leslie Hough and Shashicant Phadnis), as they were trying to develop a new insecticide at Queen Elizabeth College in London, England.

    Splenda is sugar that has had 3 OH ions replaced with 3 chlorine (Cl) atoms.

    This makes it a “chlorocarbon,” in the same family as DDT and carbon tetrachloride (CCL4), chemicals that are best admired at arm’s length. (If you have ever taken chemistry in college, you know that carbon tetrachloride causes liver cancer, and I’m sure you know all about DDT, with the fragile bird’s eggs…).

    When this potential insecticide was isolated, one of the researchers (the boss, Leslie Hough) said “Test it.”, while the other (the underling, Phadnis Shashicant) heard “Taste it.”

    Upon tasting the new compound, it was found to be very sweet (600x sweeter than sugar).

    In the quest for a new insecticide, a new artificial sweetener was born.

    I agree with you Mark, the bad taste alone is enough to eliminate this artificial sweetener from my cupboard.

    By the way, Splenda was introduced on April Fool’s Day, 1998. Kind of strange…


    1. Thanks for the interesting yet disturbing trivia, Rob!

      Incidentally, if you go on the official Splenda website FAQ section, you find: “Q: Does sucralose contain DDT? A: No, sucralose does not contain DDT.” Which, technically, is absolutely true. It doesn’t “contain” DDT; it’s just structually similar… So that’s okay, then?!

      I actually sent them an email when I discovered that sucralose was the trigger of my horrendous migraines, and they sent me an automatic response that they would get back to me later. The only response I ever had is that they put me on their recipe club mailing list.

  62. I started drinking diet soda as a young teen, so it wasn’t ever really about the weight – I just didn’t like the heaviness of regular Coke. (After diet soda, regular soda is like motor oil – UGH!)

    About 11 years ago, I decided to stop my 4 can a day habit cold turkey. MISTAKE – I ended up sitting in my car crying my eyes out because I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go and eat lunch. I went to my doctor and he told me that aspertame is very similar to SSRIs (antidepressants), and that I had been self-medicating and the sudden stop caused the panic attack.

    Has anyone else heard of an aspertame/SSRI connection?

    I went back to eating wheat, got divorced, gained all the weight back and got unhealthy again, so I want to go Primal to improve my health. However, I am *terrified* of giving up the diet soda if I’m gonna go through those kinds of experiences!

    1. Aspartame blocks seritonin. I think this is why we have a epidemic of depression and the subsequent explosion of people being on anti-depressants. Back off slowly from the diet drinks and you’ll evntually get off of them.

  63. I literally ‘ate’ tens thousands of artificial sweeteners containing cyclamate all throughout my 100+ pound drop. While I’m not a fan of diet drinks (it’s Coke Classic or nothing,) I still use it daily. For me, it made the difference between enjoying this lifestyle and perhaps finding myself like the other 95% that fail at this, bitter that I couldn’t maintain.

  64. ” 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.”

    This may of course be so strongly correlated because typically people who are overweight or even obese are more prone to using diet soda in an attempt to reduce caloric intake. But what actually happens is that they will compensate by eating more. Back in the days I would often eat some sweets or chocolate *because* I was saving so many calories through diet soda. Some “naturally lean” friends of mine on the other hand drink standard sugary sodas with every meal, but not large quantities, and they don’t overeat sweets.

    My take on diet soda: Aspartame may be harmful … or not. In the absence of definitive evidence, I would still recommend against diet soda – simply because it has no beneficial effect at all. Drink water – especially in the summer that will also save you a lot of money. And for variety, consider unsweetened tea, which comes in many interesting flavors … many of which are also free of caffeine. My favorite: Organic Chai.

  65. I never allowed my children, ages 17 & 23 to have anything diet. I would rather they ate and drank sugar than chemicals. I have not had any soda in about 15 years and don’t miss it one bit.

  66. Every once in a great while I’ll cave and have a diet coke…AAnnd after the first few sips I usually feel so gross and bloated I can never finish the whole thing! I highly suggest to anyone trying to ditch the habit to try flavored seltzer water, once you get used to it it’s really quite satisfying esp. if you gotta have something with fizz!

  67. Man, one of the really great things about this blog is Sisson’s obvious desire to be fair by pointing to both sides of an argument. Well done.

  68. I can tell you that DietCoke has been the bane of my existence for years. There was a serious addiction there… and the amount I could drink sometimes was frightening.

    Anyway, I’ve tried giving it up several times in the past year with some good successes (4 months once), and then had one can and back into it. So for me.. no more ever.

    I’m convinced it’s the major reason I gained the weight, developed metabolic issues and killed the good bacteria in my gut. Time will tell, hopefully after being with out it for 4-6 months I can heal up most of the damage.

  69. Other than the occasional protein shake, I’ve never used artificial sweeteners because I hated the taste. But, I drank a lot & I mean a lot of regular soda for years before I gave up about 4 or 5-years ago. I became convinced that cola’s were causing me allergy problems. Gave up cold turkey, which was surprisingly was easy. I did substitute non-sweetened ice tea for at least a little caffeine which may have helped. Did my allergies improve? No. Not one bit. And I also did not drop a single pound of weight. As far as I could tell I didn’t change any other eating habits, but I must have made up the calories lost somewhere else. Never went back as there’s no way that much sugar could be good for anyone. I haven’t even had it as an occasional treat as I was a real junky and I’m afraid it will be right back to uncontrolled behavior. However, I must admit I’m more tempted lately primarily by some of the sodas going back to sugar over HFCS & several local restaurants offering Boylan’s Soda as a fountain option. Probably won’t do it, but even old addictions have their pull.

    Btw, after my failure on controlling my allergy issues by giving up soda, I determined that the likely cause was chocolate. Give up chocolate or live with my allergies? Excuse me while I sneeze, but I think you know which chose I made. 🙂

  70. Years ago one of my daughters friends told me that she had never had a soda because her parents wouldn’t let her. I felt sorry for her at first but then I started to do a little research. After what I found out, I stopped cold-turkey. Haven’t had a soda in 4 years.

  71. Quit Diet Coke several years ago in favor of tea. Do not miss it at all. My modest food budget is not wasted on items with no nutritional or antioxidant value.

  72. I never drink diet sodas, they always have a metallic or “chemical” taste that I do not like. The few time I drank a diet soda with Aspartame I got a weird spacey feeling followed by a subtle headache. I’ve always avoided it since.

    I used to drink a sugar-soda (now with HFCS) a few times a week at lunch or dinner. One day, long before I discovered Atkins/LC, I was drinking a Coke and was curious how much sugar was in it — something like 8-10 teaspoons or 20 sugar cubes. I decided that I would never sit down and intentionally EAT 20 sugar cubes with a meal and that so much sugar could not possibly be good for me. I quit drinking carbonated sugar water that day. (It wasn’t till years later, when I discovered LC, that I learned sugar is added to *everything*).

    As far as diet sodas, I think they are generally a bad idea (even apart from any questionable chemical additives). I think diet sodas just nurture and sustain a sweet tooth. I might have read it here, but someone somewhere made a wise comment on a LC/Primal site that they never could commit to the lifestyle until they gave up on trying replicate HC foods, i.e. LC pancakes, LC Pizza, LC Chocolates, etc. They had to learn to eat LC/Primal and if they wanted pancakes, pizza, soda or chocolates they ate the real-deal once in a (presumably great) while.

  73. I quit my diet soda/energy drink consumption over this last month and replaced it with real sugar — fruits and dark chocolate and the occasional Korg treat (cake, ice cream). Two big surprises: One, I was able to eat small amounts of “real” sugar and be satisfied; in past efforts at a general low-carb diet full of fake sugars I’d get massive sweet cravings and binge. Two, the weight plateau I’d been stuck on for 6 months broke almost overnight. A big daily Primal Salad at lunch has also played a part in that I think 🙂

  74. I have a different philosophy.

    If you eat good, clean, wholesome foods, like on a primal diet, the occasional sweet indulgence would not do much harm at all.

    So if you’re gonna splurge, why not just eat or drink some real sugar?

    I’ll have ice cream perhaps 3 times a month – but, of course, I try to only buy brands that have like 3-4 ingredients i.e. cream, milk, sugar, vanilla.

    Or if I want a soft drink as a dessert, I like micro-brewed, craft style cream soda or root beer – you know, the kind made with real sugar, not HFCS.

    If your trying to kick a sugar habit, I could see using diet soda to wean off the sweet tooth…maybe.

    But if you’re not addicted, and wish to have the occasional indulgence, why would you use Diet, artificial sweetener crap?

    1. I agree man, its the ADDICTION that’s the problem, not the sugar itself.

      Indulging TOO FREQUENTLY will make you addicted, and we see the results everywhere.

  75. I have to admit to starting to drink diet soda a few years ago. It actually did help me shed a few pounds though I constantly wander in the back of my mind if it is damaging my body.

    A great alternative I use sometimes is a splash of fruit juice in sparkling water. Delicious and good for you!

  76. I have lost 45 lbs while continuing to drink sodas w splenda. I “limit”myself to 3 a day which is way down from previously. I intend to reduce it more,eliminate it or replace w iced tea.

  77. My mother-in-law was drinking a ton of diet sodas in the course of the day. After finding out that they might be setting off her migraines, she quit. Well, she still gets migraines, but her fibromyalgia has pretty much disappeared. She was getting to point where it was painful to walk, so her quality of life has markedly improved.

  78. After I quit drinking soda, my headaches disappeared. It seems miraculous.

  79. I have read that it is not possible to become technically “addicted” to sugar or another other food stuff (though I personally disagree) but instead, it is a “habit” that has become hard to break.

    Whatever it is, habit or addiction, I am having a very very hard time dropping the diet cola.

    I have cut back to 4 per day as opposed to much more. Talk about “jonesin” for a diet coke zero! 🙂

  80. I have ADD and I noticed a tremendous improvement after I started avoiding Aspertame, almost as big as the improvement I saw from my prescription of Adderall.
    My memory and ability to focus are much better, my mind isn’t always in a fog like as if I have just woken up, and I am not nervous all the time so my anxiousness in social settings has been improved as well. WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY “SWEET MISERY” to see the dangers of aspertame.

  81. Awesome article Mark, this is exactly what I was looking for when I commented a few days ago on my mother’s unwillingness to kick the diet soda habit (will be forwarding to her).

    I just finished up Gary Taubes (how we get fat..) new book last night so the hormonal response aspect of this post really got me thinking.

    Does the hormonal response from simply the taste of non-caloric sweeteners illicit a similar response to real sugars, thus causing the domino effect of partitioning calories to fat storage more readily ? Seems like that may be the case when you look the study referenced regarding the increased obesity in the diet soda rats intaking similar calories to regularly fed rats.

    Looks like I’ll need to do some searching around, nonetheless great post. If anyone has any interesting links on this topic I’d love to read em. Thanks

  82. I observed, when I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (with blood sugar levels extremely difficult to reign in)and was testing ny glucose 7-10 times daily, that excessive use of Nutrasweet, while it would not raise my sugar, definitely increased the time it took for my blood sugar to drop to ‘normal’. I do not know if this is a universal response or if it is rare, but I know from experiment it is real and can only be related to nutrasweet. Now that my glucose levels are completely under control I no longer observe this effect, and I have looked for it.

  83. I had a glass of diet soda at christmas. Mind you i hadn’t had any kind of soda in almost three years before that.

    The chemical taste was strange and really foreign to my palate and left a very nasty feeling in my mouth. Like my body didn’t even recognize it as food. Like i had a swig from a shampoo bottle or something.

    I prefer fresh and clean water with a little lemon and a dash of ginger juice in it. No more sodas for me, like ever.

    1. I hate the taste/smell of meat the same way – I would vomit if I had to eat it.

  84. I’ve never had a problem with treating soda just like I do alcohol. I don’t keep it in my pantry or drink it at work or to quench my thirst, but I will have a glass during a rare dinner out or a can at the occasional social event. In my mind they both fall in the category of recreational drugs- non nutritive, and probably bad for you if consumed regularly, but fun every once and a while. I’ve never been tempted to up my intake of either, although I’d imagine some people would have addiction problems with soda just like some do with alcohol.

  85. Hello, I came across your site today as I had forgotten a name of a grass-fed butter I was looking for. I loved this post and am going to be linking to it from my blog. I am a strong believer in no sodas and can’t ever express into words why. Also I try to prevent any contention as soda lovers tend to defend their habit pretty strongly. Thanks for this post I love your wording. Hope you don’t mind I link it up.

  86. I am one of those who hated soda,it’s not because I think that being thin is cool ’cause I’m neither thin nor am I fat. I am just a health buff and I’ve junked soda since I was 13 and now I’m running 30 and haven’t touch a can of soda nor sip on it. I love my healthy lifestyle and I have to say that you have a good eye opener here for everyone who thinks that “sugar” is really sweet.

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  87. This is one post I will be getting my husband to read. He loves his diet coke and – strangely! – is a failed dieter. Whatever he loses just comes back again. Perhaps we have the answer to that problem right here.

  88. Bruce,

    I’ve done a very similar post to this one on my blog. I totally agree with you. Research is still inconclusive at best but the ingredients are definitely unhealthy and well the soda companies are just spending billions to market their so-called diet product claiming that its safe for consumption.

    I’m still more of a pure coke fan than a diet fan by a mile. But after doing a bit of reading on diet sodas, I’ll stay away from it for a long time.

  89. I’m surprised no one has mentioned LaCroix drinks yet… carbonated water with very small amount of natural fruit flavoring. No calories, caffine or sugar. Takes great and gives you that nice refreshing bubbly sensation 🙂 I do not allow anything with HFCS or artificial sugar in my pantry. I limit artificial ingredients and added sugar as much as possible. I wish I could be more selective when it comes to making everything myself, using organic fruits and veggies and grassfed beef; but I am on a very limited grocery budget. I cut out what I can. It disgusts me to see what most people I know eat and feed their children.

  90. This is something I wrestle with. I do drink diet soda everyday and have for years. Some days it’s a little, and some days it’s a lot.

    I went almost primal in mid 2010. I say almost b/c I do eat beans often (wife is from South America & eats it a every meal). I lost 52 pounds in 4 months. So diet soda didn’t stop me from losing fat, but I am concerned about the unnaturalness (is that a word?) of it.

    I’m totally on the fence about it…

  91. When I was using diet sodas and Splenda in my tea along with a low carb diet, I lost weight, but the recurring bladder infections (puzzled at least two doctors–they had no suggestions)and blood in my urine were not acceptable side effects. Both went away when I stopped using (artificial sweeteners).
    Also, I have twice used Aspartame in an experiment on ants: I mixed a packet of Aspartame into a solution of lots of sugar in water and put it in a margarine container on the kitchen floor by the door the ants were coming in under. Within a day a I had no more ants and also discovered many spider mites dead on the container. This was enough to convince me to stay away from all artificial sweeteners.

  92. I started drinking diet soda (Tab back then) when I was 11. I quit during two preegnancies and nursing and would then resume. I would sometimes drink as much as 6 cans a day (diet Coke), but I usually try to keep it to 2. I try and substitute bubbly water when I think I am consuming too much soda. I have never seen an impact on my weight either way but I do tend to feel better if I try to drink more water than soda. But I turn 49 this summer, am at a normal weight for my height and am pretty fit.

  93. I live in Arizona and literally drink a gallon of water daily. In the evenings I usually have 1 can of diet soda or the clear flavored waters that have aspartame. I think that is a safe amount and I have no guilt.

  94. Another reason to quit diet soda: no more acid reflux. For some reason I was being an idiot and never made the connection between 3 Diet Dr. Peppers a day and my terrible acid reflux. Then I quit soda when I started going paleo and I feel better than ever.

  95. Before going primal, I used to drink a LOT of fruit juice, especially carbonated apple juice. I thought giving up those drinks would be very difficult for me, but I was surprised that it turned out to be easy.

    However, like other readers, I love carbonated water. I highly recommend the “sodastream” device that lets you carbonate your own water. It’s very convenient, inexpensive, and I like that I reuse the same bottles over and over again. (I used to have a recycling bin full of glass bottles every week. Now I only have to put out the recycling bins once every few weeks.)

  96. Another bullshit concept about diet drinks. If you are diabetic, diet drinks and sweetners are the way to go since sugar is bad for you.
    I use aspertane all the time and my blood sugar wouild be sky high with any sugar product and corn sweetners are the worse.

    1. ww ruland,

      Really? Your comment makes it sounds like soda and diet soda are the only choices on the planet as far as beverages go. How about you don’t drink either of them. Sugar is bad and so is artificial sweeteners. Try some water.

  97. Hi Mark, et al. I’m a new convert to the Primal lifestyle and have been amazed at how it’s already having so many positive effects!! I saw a posted question about Zevia “diet soda” naturally sweetened with Stevia and I didn’t see anyone answer…? It’s been my go-to since giving up Diet Coke 2 years ago. I have probably 2 per day on avearge. I also love Vitamin water Zero sweetened with Stevia too. Am I giving up one vice for another or are these ones primal enough for modern day?

  98. 8-12 cans every day for 25 years (pepsi max), getting fatter annually and no hope of quitting. I know the drinks make me thirsty – no other obvious adverse reactions but I would love to give up.

  99. I don’t buy any of this stuff…if it really tasted so bad why would so many people love and drink diet coke??

    There is no evidence that only dieters use diet soda.

    I have a can or two of diet coke a day, and don’t plan to apologize for it. I usually drink it with a big portion of ice so it’s diluted. It provides the same hydration as water – why wouldn’t it? The main ingredient in soda, diet or not, is water.

    Honey, molasses, or whatever else WILL cause an insulin response in the body and does contain calories. I’ll stick to my diet drink any day…

  100. Sodas are highly acidic, regardless of sweetener. has best test strips and pH (acidic versus alkaline) info. is also a tremendous resource for “food as medicine”. His acronym GOMBS for greens, onions, mushrooms, beans/berries and seeds/nuts inspires my recent soup efforts (plus garlic, peppers, celery, carrots, whatever veggies available). Amy’s low sodium veggie lentil is a great starter. Enjoy soup and websites. pH into the alkaline zone and Fuhrman’s micronutrients and phytochemicals emphasis is a likely formula for a healthy and long life!

  101. Aside from the chemicals, its worth noting that these soda drinks ROT YOUR TEETH faster than anything I know. I was warned about it by a dentist when I was a teenager and to this day am grateful for his advice! The acids in diet sodas are just as damaging as the sugars in sweetened sodas apparently. Fruit juices are also up there as teeth rotters, not as bad as soda drinks, but woth noting that the alkaline content of your saliva can deal with most natural foods but the acid wash of a fruit juice or worse – a soda drink – is not so good for your gnashers.

  102. I found this blog very interesting.

    A year ago, I moved, and we had a second fridge that I stocked with diet soda. Before moving, I probably drank a couple of cans per week. After moving, I started drinking it like crazy – – 3 cans per day was not uncommon.

    Oddly, I gained 12 lbs in a year WHILE training for a marathon.

    I don’t know if I really slacked on my eating habits, but I don’t think I changed THAT much. I feel as though maybe the diet soda had something to do with the weight gain.

    I stopped cold turkey and had 3 days of migraines (even though not all the diet soda was caffeinated). I’m moving toward a low carb lifestyle (just found your site and am perusing it with enthusiasm).

    I feel better, but I am not losing weight quickly. However, I have hope that maybe I can at least drop the 12 lbs I gained over the course of the year . . .

  103. I waited tables for years and drank Coke from the fountain during my entire shift. I remember one day it just hit me that, almost without exception, the people who ordered full sugar soft drinks were obese or very young. People who drank diet soda never looked healthy (overweight or otherwise unhealthy looking). The people who were noticeably attractive and fit looking drank water or unsweetened tea. I figured that was enough of a study for me. Quit then. For about a year I would drink a soda or diet soda occasionally. Now the thought of it is completely unappealing. Eliminate don’t limit!

  104. I’ll be one to buck the trend, so to speak, and go “pro-diet soda” – but first let me explain why.

    I was a HUGE regular soda drinker and it’s caused me to be skinny fat for a long time. I’m am/was a sugar addict in general, until recently I decided to cut it out as much as possible and follow a more primal diet. Since soda was such a big habit, I know from past experience I couldn’t just cut it out completely, because then I’d feel too deprived, and revert back to bad eat habits across the board. It’s as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing. So diet soda is the one thing I allow myself daily for now (cut out all refined carbs, sweets, and other junk). I literally drink over a liter day, but I’ve been dedicated with the gym and the rest of my eating habits. In just about 6 weeks, I’ve dropped 12 lbs (from 172 to 160) and have a noticeable decrease in belly fat (though not totally gone). As I mentioned, I am skinny fat, so I’m not visibly overweight…so 12 lbs is A LOT for me. I still think another 10 is in order to get lean, but I feel like I’m on my way…and if I get there, it will be the first time since I was like 10 years old that i’ll have a truly flat stomach (im in my 30’s now). I know other people experience other side effects like stomach aches and such, but maybe just because I’ve been a big soda drinker since I was a kid, it doesn’t bother me?

    I realize diet soda in all odds is bad for you with all the chemicals, but this is helping me transition to avoid sweet drinks. Compared to my previous diet (loaded with sugar and processed food), this is an improvement. Im slowly starting to swap seltzer and water in as substitutes…so for every one glass of diet soda I have, I make the next glass water or seltzer to try and dwindle down the numbers (I drink a lot of liquid throughout the day). I eventually want to phase it out completely, but I know myself, and know that cold turkey doesn’t work for me long term.

    Everyone is different, and like Mark said – if you aren’t drinking it already, I don’t recommend starting! Soda is my cigarettes…I was hooked at a young age and I’ve been trying to escape for years.

    1. Also – my main point was to show that in my case, diet soda doesn’t appear to be what makes you fat. I’m drinking it in quite large quantities (I honestly drank close to 2 liters today), and if you added up the calories I’d be consuming if it was regular soda, I’d be GAINING weight instead of losing it. I’m convinced that those studies that show people gaining weight is because the rest of their diet is crap, and they are victims of the “Big Mac with a diet coke” syndrome.

      Again – not advocating it as being healthy, but i don’t think it causes obesity either.

  105. So I bought some cordial called ‘The Naturdal Cordial Company’ apple raspberry flavour, when I was trying to be healthy, before I discovered Primal.. And I haven’t touched it since. My husband however, has been going through the few sugary things we have left in the house he has recently finished the bottle of normal cordial and then yesterday he had a strawberry milk made from some milkshake syrup which I’m sure must be packed with sugar. (a big drink of milk usually makes him sick so he steers clear) He can’t seem to kick sugar! I just picked up my bottle of ‘healthy’ cordial and went straight to the amount of carbs and sugar listed.. Carbs 2.2 per 100g, Sugar 1.2 per 100 grams, Erythritol 1.0 per 100g.. It’s sweetened with stevia!

    So that’s good right? I mean I can safely have (and feed my husband) a nice sweet drink of cordial without feeling guilty or ruining my eating? It’s basically just fruitness, water and a bit of stevia..??

  106. I was a big Coke Zero fan, especially the vanilla variety. Then I watched ‘Sweet Misery’ (available on the net on vimeo, I think) … I don’t drink it any more. The aspartame business is nasty from the process of getting it approved to the massive list of side-effects. I actually feel guilty for giving my 7yo daughter a sip occasionally …

  107. So I’ve been reading everyone’s comments on the soda issue, have noticed several people mention Soda Stream, which we own and use (a lot!). One of my friends was saying that anything carbonated with CO2 had carbonic acid in it and would cause loss of bone mass and tooth enamel degeneration. I can’t find anything in the MDA archives (maybe I’m just not trying the right search criteria) regarding this.
    So-we’re really new to PB. Very happy so far-I got my husband and son to agree to try this and today is our one week anniversary. We’ve lost 18 pounds as family! (Hubby-11, me 5 and our son, not really overweight yet with a little pot belly, 2.)
    We’re eating delicious home cooked meals, saving a ton on restaurant bills. So-does anyone know if my friend is right? I would hate to be trying so hard to be healthy and unknowingly doing something that could sabotage our health down the road. My son hates (yay!) anything fizzy, drank maybe one glass of juice every couple weeks, so his fluid intake has remained the same- milk and water. I was never a really big soda drinker, my fav remains iced tea with lots of lemon and some sweet-n-low. I haven’t had that, switched to Truvia for both ice tea and coffee. Haven’t noticed any sugar cravings associated with that, though I’m guessing the erythritol portion is probably a sugar alcohol. We do drink plain water, but the fizzy stuff (plain or with lemon) is very nice with meals.
    So-soda water OK or not? Any comments/knowledge would be greatly appreciated by a couple of newbies. Thanks.

  108. I just wonder if there is an insulin response or not??????
    I’ve been trying to adapt to this diet by slowly switching over for the past week now, but really enjoy a dt dew in the morning or at lunch. Despite the other possible health affects, I would really love to continue doing so if it doesn’t affect insulin.

  109. The migraine response to aspartame seems to be genetic. My mother-in-law, wife and daughter all suffer migraines when they consume aspartame and only when they consume aspartame. Those of us with Y chromosomes do not seem to be afflicted with these symptoms, but statistically, women are more prone to migraines in general (my doctor has a poster about migraine vs. cluster headaches). As I am well above my ideal weight, I’m going to begin elimination of soda (and energy drinks) from my routine, but it’s going to be a long road, as my office trash can is full of energy drink cans and I have a 32oz fountain drink on my desk at the moment.

  110. If I give up diet coke and substitute with water, I’m inclined to try sparkling water. Are there salt issues with that?

  111. While on the path to learning how to take care of my mind, spirit and body I have learned that I need to start trusting my intuition and I have this intuition that drinking Diet Coke is somehow messing with me in a way that prevents me from reaching my body fat goals. I’m a data driven guy though and finding the data that definitively validates my intuition is next to impossible. The only option I can see left is to stop the Diet Coke all together and see what happens 🙂

  112. Even with carbohydrate intake of < 25 g per day, the addition of one diet soda per day COMPLETELY stalled what had been very steady weight loss and started me on the path to eating badly again.

    I also did some self-experimentation to discover it is a major trigger for migraine and anxiety attacks. It's not the caffeine alone, b/c coffee does not have the same effect.

    I do love soda, though, so I make it a weekly treat. I have one soda made with real cane sugar on the weekend. And I walk the mile to the healthy grocery store to buy it, and back, so the exercise burns a lot of the sugar.

    In the summer here in Mississippi it is very hot. I make sun every couple days – steeped outside in an old 3 qt Ball mason jar pail for about 3 hours. I use a mix of green, black, and peppermint tea. The peppermint makes it even more refreshing.

    I "sweeten" with just enough honey to not make it sweet, but just cut the bitterness. Add lemon, and it's incredibly cooling on a summer day.

  113. I’m a huge Diet Pepsi fan and I drink a lot of it every single day. I’ve read countless stories about the harmful affects of its ingredients and horror stories from others similarly addicted. But nothing I’ve read (or seen) so far has made me cut it from my food choices.

    I do admit though that reading through all that material I think I probably SHOULD cut it out but just don’t want to. Occasionally, I have gone cold-turkey and drank only cold water with a splash of lime or lemon. Last time I did that it took about 10 days before I was back to the Diet Pepsi. I don’t like the taste of the regular Pepsi or any other soft drink. If DP isn’t available then it’s water for me.

    I started with Primal Blueprint at the beginning of Oct. (2013) and have been losing 1-2 lbs. a week, while continuing with my beloved Diet Pepsi consumption as usual.

    I don’t gamble, or drink any alcohol, or smoke – so this is my one vice and I’m keeping it!

    1. You sound like me — when I was addicted (and there are no two ways around it — I was ADDICTED) to Diet Coke, I said all the same things. Then a healthcare provider convinced me that it was an endocrine disruptor, probably exacerbating my endometriosis. Meaning it was a factor in causing me debilitating pain. That was all the convincing I needed to go cold turkey. But I will tell you — it was SIX MONTHS of climbing the walls, craving that stuff like a junkie, before I finally got over it. “I just don’t want to” is the language of an addict. Trust me, I speak from experience. I would urge you to try getting off the stuff, or at least cut back to no more than one serving per day (and by “serving” I don’t mean a 42-ounce Big Gulp! :-)) If you find yourself going back to it after a week, with all kinds of self-talk justifying that you just “want it,” you probably are addicted just as I was. It’s up to you whether that’s OK with you or not, but at least see the situation for what it is. Oh, and lest you think I’m being all judgy and holier-than-thou, I promise I am not. In fact, I fell into the arms of Coke Zero a few years ago after being soda-free for years, and now I have a Coke Zero somewhere between 3 and 6 times a week. Never more than one a day, and for whatever reason it’s not driving me to addiction like the Diet Coke did. I need to decide if I’m going to go off the stuff again. The good news is, if I don’t have one for a few days, it’s not a big deal anymore. If I need to cut it out entirely, I know I can and it won’t lead to months of suffering like last time. That’s what I would hope for you, too.

  114. There’s that word “associated with”. Does it ever occur to people that the whole reason they are drinking diet sodas is precisely because they are overweight. There’s no reason to drink them if you don’t have problems with your weight. So of course, epidemiological studies will show that the people who gain weight are drinking them. Come on people, Think!