Are Diet Drinks Bad For You? Heart Disease And Other Possible Ailments

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

It's long been known that drinking too many sodas and other sweet drinks aren't good for people, whether they are sweetened with sugar or an artificial sweetener like aspartame. But new research is showing just how bad drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners can be. While this doesn't mean that sugar sweetened drinks are healthier, it does mean that people should carefully monitor their consumption of diet drinks.

Heart Disease

Millions of Americans suffer from some form of heart disease each year, whether it is a heart attack, stroke or high blood pressure. While diet drinks aren't entirely to blame as there are many factors that affect whether or not someone will have a heart attack or stroke, new research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that the consumption of diet drinks may increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

[Related: Types Of Cardiovascular Disease]

The 10-year long study found that drinking soft drinks of any kind were associated with several risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but after using control measures for those risks, they still found that those who consume diet drinks have an increased risk of heart disease. The exact mechanism for this increased risk is unclear and the authors of the study believe that more research is necessary to further understand this relationship.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a serious concern because the kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood to remove liquid waste products. When the kidneys don't function properly it can mean big problems, and in some cases, death.

According to a 2010 study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, women who consumed two or more diet drinks per day had a two-fold increased risk of developing kidney disease over those who didn't drink diet drinks.

The study examined 3,000 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study and found that a "significant association" existed between the early markers of kidney disease and the consumption of at least two diet drinks per day. This leads researchers to believe that there is a "threshold effect" as the markers were not seen in those who drank less than two drinks per day.

Also the type of artificial sweetener used in the drinks was not looked at, although the study notes that in the 1980s and 1990s the artificial sweeteners of choice were aspartame and saccharin, and saccharin has previously been linked to renal problems in lab animals. It's important to remember that two diet drinks per day is not a large amount, as many people consume much more on a daily basis.


Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. And while many people think that downing the diet drinks instead of the sugary ones is a good idea, research is proving that the opposite is true.

Multiple studies have shown that artificially sweetened drinks short circuit the hunger/reward response of the brain, essentially causing the calorie counter in the brain to go haywire. While this response involves several different complex brain functions, essentially the brain expects sweet tastes to provide calories (in the form of sugar) but because artificial sweeteners don't provide calories, the brain doesn't know how to process this. Over time this can cause the brain to become confused when this hunger/reward response is triggered, leading to the over consumption of calories.


Millions of women each year fall victim to osteoporosis, the condition that causes bones to become brittle and break easily. So women concerned about osteoporosis should definitely avoid colas, but in this case it's both the diet versions and the sugar sweetened ones.

According to a 2006 study conducted by Tufts University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, older women who had just four colas per week had reduced bone density. This change was not seen in men, although this isn't surprising because men do not experience the same hormone changes that contribute to osteoporosis as they age that women do.

The study hypothesized that the phosphoric acid in the soft drink was responsible for the depletion of calcium from the bones. As the number of soft drinks consumed went up, it created an acidic environment that caused calcium to leech out of the bones to compensate. However, the study notes that more research is necessary to confirm this. It's important to know that many different soft drinks and other food products contain phosphoric acid.


Many people suffer from migraines. These severe headaches can be debilitating and come with a host of unpleasant symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. And one of the most common triggers for migraines is artificial sweeteners, such as the ones used in diet drinks.

While it may not be possible to completely avoid migraines, avoiding diet drinks and anything else that uses artificial sweeteners will definitely help.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that diet drinks cause a whole host of other problems, but this is largely unconfirmed by the scientific community. Still these drinks seem to be more trouble than they are worth. In the end, sticking to water, herbal tea or milk is best.


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