Many of us who enjoy fizzy drinks select diet soda as a healthier option than the normal soda. Even if we have with diabetes, we feel that diet soda has less sugar and is therefore not harmful to us. Sadly, that’s not entirely true. Let’s find out how does diet soda affect diabetics.
Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners, which are also referred to as non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) or non-caloric sweeteners. They have a higher intensity of sweetness per gram than caloric sweeteners like sucrose. Popular artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose are regulated as food additives by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA). Aspartame and saccharin, commonly found in diet sodas, are both FDA reviewed and approved. Besides FDA, most sweeteners used in diet sodas are approved by World Health Organization (WHO) and/ or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) lists diet soda as safe for diabetics to consume. Diet soda is typically sweetened with one of five artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners do not contain calories (or have less than 20 calories), and the ADA reports that they do not cause a blood glucose reaction.
Furthermore, carbohydrate content in diet soda is less (less than 5 gm) when compared to that of regular soda. Also, the calorie content in diet soda is less than that of regular soda.
According to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group based in Rochester, Minnesota, while the artificial sweeteners may not raise blood sugar, the caffeine in it might. A 2004 study at Duke University showed that caffeine consumption can increase blood sugar levels by up to 8%. Though the reason for this effect of caffeine on glucose is not fully understood, scientists are recommending diabetics to reduce their caffeine consumption.
In a study published in Diabetes Care Journal, daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 67% greater relative risk of type 2 diabetes. Another study found that only those artificial sweeteners with a bitter aftertaste (acesulfame K, saccharin, stevia) augmented insulin response in the presence of glucose. Aspartame, which does not have a bitter aftertaste, did not affect insulin. In some other studies, aspartame has been shown to be metabolized in a way that potentially causes insulin production to increase too much.
There have been instances where researchers have discovered that artificial sweeteners can trigger sweet receptors in the stomach. This leads to an increase in insulin and lowered blood sugar. Though this was an area of concern, there was no evidence to prove that the spike in insulin would cause clinical hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is a risk for people on certain diabetes medications.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the sweet taste of diet sodas can confuse the brain. Since sweet foods have lots of calories, when we consume diet soda, our brain is expecting calories. When it doesn’t find any (as in diet soda), our hunger increases. This makes us eat more to make up for the calories our brain is expecting. If the extra food we have includes carbohydrates, then blood sugar will be affected.
Also, diet sodas have no nutritional value. For people with diabetes, diet soda has been associated with weight gain and symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
There could also be specific reactions to the artificial sweeteners, which some of us may or may not be sensitive to. Some people seem to get headaches from aspartame, for example.
Research has also shown that people feel better and have better blood glucose levels when they stop artificially sweetened drinks. Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health emphasize that sodas, both diet and regular, should be occasional treats and not a replacement for our daily intake of water.
The ADA recommends other zero calorie or very low calories drinks that helps us to better manage our blood sugar levels:
Even though they do not contain actual sugar, diet sodas are packed with artificial sweeteners and other unhealthy additives. Some sweeteners in diet soda cause sugar and insulin spikes in the blood.
Drinking a zero-calorie beverage may be a better option than the sugared variety. Choosing those with artificial sweeteners might not be the best choice. We need to read the ingredients carefully before we consume the next diet soda. ndirectly, diet sodas can affect our glucose if we don’t pay attention and give in to the cravings. We need to monitor what affects us and how.