Is that diet soda bad for me?
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Hey everyone, welcome to Mini Mikkipedia on a Monday. And today I wanted to chat about the effect of diet soft drinks or sodas on health indicators. And when I popped a post up last Tuesday, actually, and asked you guys, or at least my Instagram and Facebook audience, you know, what is it, what topics would you like me to cover? I certainly got a few people saying,
What about that diet coke? Is that gonna kill me? Which I think is a great question because in my history, unsurprisingly, I have been at complete opposite ends of the spectrum on this, and now I feel it is safe to say that I'm probably firmly in the middle. When I was a seventh-born, you know, back in the day where kids still went to school, five days a week even, amazingly, I used to drink two liters of Sprite, diet Sprite.
probably three or four times a week, and it absolutely related to when I was studying and I wanted a distraction and I didn't want to eat all of the lollies that I was eating, so I would drink diet Sprite. And in fact, this habit of having a diet soda almost every day and about a liter a day in some sort of periods of that time, that lasted right up until I was about 31, when I...
hooked into Sarah Wilson. And this was the time when the I Quit Sugar sort of movement was emerging. And she was still actually though, just selling her ebook, the whole I Quit Sugar eight week course hadn't yet been developed. And I read something that she said that really just made the light bulb go off in my head about why I was even drinking diet soda to begin with. And she really was like, look,
Why don't you just cut that sweet altogether? Because anything including diet yogurts and any foods that contain these artificial sweeteners, natural or not, they're just encouraging your sweet palate. And if you're trying to give up sugar, and remember this is what her I Quit Sugar movement was about, then actually you're better off retraining your taste buds to expect less sweet foods. And in that moment, I completely, like literally dumped the rest of the diet coke that I was drinking.
got rid of my Wrigley's extra gum, and I've never gone back to that by the way, and that was the end of it for me. Of course, like most things, to be completely extreme on one end, it's sort of natural to rebound I think, for a lot of people, or just be a complete zealot your whole life. I mean, you decide which one you want to be. And I ended up sort of coming veering back sort of in the middle of my opinions on this stuff.
For a lot of people, I think the point that Sarah brought up in her I Quit Sugar book and things that I discuss with clients now is that if that diet soda is triggering you to want more sweet foods, then yeah, it is probably better off for you to remove the sweet from your diet. So you're not having that. And whilst I'm sort of specifically thinking about diet soda here, I would say the same is true for...
any sweetener that you're going to add. Like if for example, you start the morning and you're having stevia or sucralose or Splenda, whatever in your coffee, and then you've got an art of, or you know, a super sweet sort of protein shake, and then for lunch you're doing that thing where you instead of having like a savory lunch, you're still having pancakes or something. So at every moment of the day, whenever you're putting something in your mouth, it is...
either sweet or part of it is sort of filling that sweet sensation that you're craving, then that is definitely a time to reconsider what you're putting in your mouth when it comes to these sort of artificial sweeteners. Just for the mere fact that, you know, food quality can be compromised if everything you're putting in your mouth is sweet. And ultimately, you don't want to be consistently sort of encouraging that sweet palate, particularly if you've got those sweet cravings.
To that end, that's when I do recommend that people really consider their intake of things like diet soft drink. Now another point that I would say is that whilst I am now sort of in the middle and I'm like, hey, if you enjoy it, have your diet soft drink, it's not going to kill you. And it won't, by the way. I also don't want people to only drink something like diet soft drink or every time they're having a sparkling water, they're putting like some sort of sweet thing in it because
Actually, I think your body does love water and your body needs water. And this is not just something I think. I shouldn't have said that. What I mean to say is your body wants water and you having hydrating on water plus electrolytes like salt is actually much better than every time you're drinking something, your kidneys and your liver or your liver particularly has to metabolize something alongside it. So water to my mind is king. And when you are actually really thirsty, your best...
is to drink water and then when you sort of want a bit of a pep up, why not you just sort of drink that diet soda then, right? So those are two instances where I do suggest that people reconsider their diet soft drink intake. And the third instance I would suggest you rethink it is if you were drinking diet soft drink instead of eating.
I know so many people because I have done it myself. And isn't it so true that you recognize behaviors that you sort of don't like in yourself and you see it in other people? I notice that all the time. When I was younger and drinking those two liters of Diet Sprite on my studying days, I was doing it so I wouldn't eat. And that's not healthy, is it?
So if this is you, if you recognize this about yourself, that you're actually hungry, yet you're trying to fill the gap with a diet soft drink, that's another instance where I would suggest you reconsider your diet soft drink intake. And it is interesting how I've sort of now come around to this more moderate approach to foods like this. I would have to credit Eric Helms in part for changing my mindset a little bit, like anyone who knows Eric knows he's a complete guru.
and is just a wealth of information and super smart. He loves his Pepsi Max. And I have to say, Eric, I am with you on that. And I think Eric and I have actually discussed that on a previous sort of podcast episode I have done with Eric, but it's listening to the likes of people like Eric and Lane Norton and other more reasonable people in this space. Now let's consider some of the arguments.
that are sort of against diet sweeteners and why they're not so persuasive when you actually go and look at the literature around them. And of course, one of the first things that people often say is, it's just not natural. You know, we shouldn't be putting these chemicals in our body. And of course, you know, anything that is less processed than more processed is going to be much better in the long term for how your body sort of
your physiology, like because it is something that sort of belongs in nature as we do, then there is much more call for this sort of food or beverage to be part of your diet because it's likely to sort of have more nutrients in it as well. However, we are resilient and I think this is often forgotten in the big scheme of things is that the body is super resilient and super complex and can actually handle some unnatural things.
Just think about the environment you're living in. Think about all the unnaturalness around us. How natural is it that I'm talking into a Rode microphone standing in front of my computer on the internet? I mean, it's not that natural, is it? Yet of course that is different from ingesting something unnatural. But that in itself isn't a reason to avoid something like artificial sweeteners in their entirety.
But of course, there has been a lot of research on artificial sweeteners, and the zealots would tell you that they're gonna kill you because cancer, or because they're going to create, they're going to cause type two diabetes, or they're gonna cause weight gain, and that's gonna lead to cardiovascular disease. And what I would say is that the most common artificial sweeteners available that you find in diet sodas like aspartame, but also sucralose, are the most rigorously tested
sweeteners that there are, or even food substances that there are on the market. And some of the more natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit and allulose and thormatin, which are all ones which I think are great, they're well less studied. And so we understand less the health implications of these, yet because they are more natural in their plant derived, we are assuming that they're going to be better for us. Now,
Please don't read this as, oh my god, now I have to worry about all of these natural sweeteners. That wasn't my point. My point is, is that there is so many more studies showing the safety of these artificial sweeteners that it's hard to argue against what the science says on them. And also these non-nutritive sweeteners are like 200 times sweeter than sugar itself. And a lot of the studies that were conducted that showed some
sort of negative health outcomes were in amounts that far exceeded what we would naturally consume even high consumers what they would naturally consume in a day. And I'm thinking that you would have to have like 15 different, 15 diet cokes in a day in order to actually reach a near limit or the acceptable daily limit of these non-nutritive sweeteners in your diet. So you have to be a pretty hardcore diet soda.
consumer in order to reach that amount. But of course, these artificial sweeteners are not just in diet sodas, they're in toothpaste and they're in your vitamins and they're in yogurts and things like that. So they are actually everywhere. And it would be very difficult to argue that diet soft drink itself causes cancer because the mechanisms are not actually there. And there are no human trials to say that.
there are no randomized clinical trials to show in humans that these are contributing to cancer risk or cancer progression. So absolutely there's no research to support the idea that diet sodas will kill you from that sort of aspect. But what about the diabetes risk? And even the World Health Organization, interestingly, they warn people against diet sodas and diet soft drinks because...
There are studies showing an association between people who have type 2 diabetes and those people who drink soft drink. And these epidemiological studies show that those people who have type 2 diabetes are more likely to drink soft drink. Now this is when it's really good to consider cause and effect versus correlation. There is a correlation between almost every single food that you eat and death actually. And in fact I think someone wrote a book about that.
study actually that's been done looking at a very popular cookbook, I can't recall what era it was from, and found that every single recipe could be correlated to early mortality when they did the actual statistical analysis on it due to the ingredients in those recipes. This was a really popular cookbook. This doesn't mean that everything in that cookbook was like high sugar, high flour, like everything like that, but it just shows you that you can find a correlation with anything.
There's a correlation between shark attacks and ice cream eating. And I don't know if you've seen that article and I believe it might've been in the New York Times or something a few years ago where there was this clear correlation between the number of ice creams that were sold and shark attacks. Now, what does that tell you? Probably just that there are more people out on a sunny day eating ice cream because it's hot and sunny, more people in the water, more people likely to be at risk of being eaten, well, or at least bitten by a shark.
That does not mean that eating ice cream causes you to be eaten by a shark. And I know intuitively we know this, there is a difference between correlation and causation, but that is often missed in headlines and newspaper articles, but also with organizations like the World Health Organization, particularly given the evidence, the clinical trials that have been conducted to show that in fact there is an inverse relationship.
between weight gain, obesity, and soft drinks, it's very hard to believe that soft drinks cause people to be more at risk of type two diabetes. And in front of me here, I'm looking at a review that was published in 2015, a systematic review that included meta-analyses. This is evidence from both human and animal studies that overall found that the balance of evidence indicates the use of low energy
sweeteners or soft drinks in place of sugar in both children and adults leads to reduced energy intake and body weight. And this is possibly also when compared with water alone as well. So potentially this suggests that including diet soft drink will help you reduce your overall calories consumed and thus lead to a reduction in body weight. Those things there are both indicators that
Type 2 diabetes risk is reduced if you are consuming diet soft drink compared to your full sugared version. And that makes sense, right? You know, a standard Coke has 140 calories, diet Coke has zero calories. Over if you're someone who has full sugared soda, then absolutely it's going to make a difference to you. And then I'm looking at another trial conducted in 2020 or published in 2020 that looked at
consumed prior to lunch, reducing appetite and total energy intake. So this study here found that there was a beneficial and specific effect of consuming a preload of a stevia beverage prior to a meal, that's what a preload is, and it had a beneficial impact on appetite and on energy intake in healthy adults. And potentially,
This will in the long term help someone again reduce their body weight, which then places them at reduced risk of conditions like type two diabetes because of the relationship between body weight and poor metabolic health. And then just finally, I'm looking at a meta analysis actually that was published in 2021. And I can pop these in the show notes so you guys can have a look at these as well.
that found that unsweetened or low to no calorie sweetener preloads or beverages appear to have similar effects compared to each other and that they are viable alternatives to sweetened foods and beverages to help manage that short-term energy intake. So this is just looking at the totality of evidence that if you're consuming these non-nutritive sweeteners as part of it before a
reduce your energy intake overall. So it is really questionable then that someone says something like, diet soft drinks are related to diabetes risk, if there's no human evidence to show that that is indeed the case. Notwithstanding, because there is something else, another argument that people sort of make is that artificial sweeteners will spike insulin. However,
If they did actually spike your insulin, then every time you had artificial sweeteners in any form and not just in diet soda, you would actually become hypoglycemic, particularly in the light of not having any food. Because if your insulin goes up without a corresponding increase in blood glucose, then that will drive insulin to take whatever glucose you have in your bloodstream and store it away in your muscle cells. And then that would lower your blood sugar
below your basal rate, below that sort of normal blood sugar level. That doesn't happen, does it? You don't feel hypoglycemic every single time you have a diet soft drink. And hey, look, let's just say that it did raise insulin, but it didn't make you hypoglycemic. You would then have to have this corresponding increase in a hormone called glucagon, and that acts in opposition to insulin. And that helps liberate glucose from...
cells and to help maintain blood sugar levels. Well, you wouldn't really have to worry if that was actually the case because glucagon also increases lipolysis and fat oxidation. You would get this increase in fat oxidation at the same time. But there's no evidence to show that that actually occurs either. And there have been trials looking at the impact of artificial sweeteners on insulin and the body of evidence does not support that this is indeed something that artificial
do. So on balance, artificial sweeteners from a health perspective in terms of weight gain, type 2 diabetes or insulin spikes and the risk of hyperinsulinemia, there's nothing to show that that's an issue. Now, one other area where there are questions around artificial sweeteners does occur when we're thinking about our gut bacteria. So we can't absorb some of the sweeteners in a
might be food for our gut bacteria. But do remember again, there's very little amounts of these in diet sodas because they are 200 times as sweet as sugar or at least sucralose or aspartame is. There was a study that was published this year that showed that sweeteners like stevia and sucralose can actually change the gut microflora. So there are shifts in the type of bacteria that are present in the gut. However, the type of bacteria that shift
is that there is an increase in butyrate and in propionate, and these are the type of gut bacteria that are associated with lower rates of obesity and better blood sugar regulation. So to suggest that the shift in bacteria are harmful is an interesting sort of position to take, whereas I think probably best case scenario, you could even say that it's beneficial, but actually just be neutral about it in that...
aren't that many studies, and this particular study here found a shift that wasn't a harmful shift, so maybe it's just neutral. We just don't know what the outcome of these, or what the long-term outcome of this is, particularly in light of the fact that your gut bacteria changes, you know, in days. So to see a shift like this tells us nothing about the long-term impact of artificial sweeteners on your gut microbiome.
And there have also been other randomized controlled trials that had observed no changes in microbiome composition after consuming aspartame, even saccharin, which is an older style sort of artificial sweetener, you don't see it around as much, and sucralose as well. And like I said, the research on stevia, there's not a lot, which is different from your diet soft drinks, even though some diet soft drinks have stevia. But
there's not a lot and it may well be neutral or a positive sort of impact if we're thinking about the butyrate and propionate changes. So these are not health foods and I'm certainly not suggesting that they are, but I have a lot of people, work with a lot of people who do enjoy the odd diet soda. And as long as they are consuming them in a way that is not increasing their sweet palate, they're not consuming them instead of drinking, or sorry, instead of eating.
you know, actual food and nourishing their body, and they're also not ignoring the fact that they're thirsty and they need water, then really, there's no big deal. And I think there's so much villainization out there of different foods every single week. You'll see bloody Paul Saladino telling you that coffee is bad and vegetables are bad and so many things are bad that I just think there needs to be much more moderation in this space because actually, you know what is bad? Overeating is bad. Excess calories.
I'm not saying you're a bad person if you do that, I'm just saying in terms of health, these are known toxins to the body. Excess energy is a known toxin to the body. That's the thing that you need to be more concerned about. And if having a diet soda is going to stop you from having excess energy, then by all means, choose a diet soda. And for what it's worth,
no one should be mainlining sugar into their bloodstream by way of a normal coke just because it's natural and it's sugar. I mean that is insane to me actually. So I'm not saying you can't drink a coke but I'm just saying don't choose a coke because you think it's better than a diet coke because I tell you what it is not. Anyway that's my opinion though I mean and it's fine for you to hold a different one. Different perspectives make for interesting conversations right? So that's Mini Mikkipedia for this week. I will catch you next week and you can
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