Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Is it healthy to drink Diet Soft Drinks..?

For many people, diet soda is an easy way to enjoy a guilt-free, calorie-free sweet treat.But some recent news has raised new concerns about whether it's healthy to drink calorie-free carbonated soft drinks.A study found an increased risk for stroke and heart attack among people who drink diet soda every day vs. those who drink no soda at all.Many nutrition and heart experts have pointed out that the research was an observational study that didn't prove cause and effect.That said, they say diet soda isn't an ideal drink. When it comes to beverages, there are many choices that are far better than any type of soda, says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and one of the nation's top experts on beverage consumption.Popkin says he has done some new research showing that many people who drink diet soda also are consuming an unhealthy diet loaded with high-fat burgers, fries, chips, pizza and other high-calorie foods. But there are also people who eat mostly healthy diets and drink diet beverages, he says.Several studies that are being reviewed now for publication indicate that diet beverages do not hurt people's health, Popkin says. Diet sodas may not be the ideal drink, but they're probably OK in moderation, he says.Compared with regular sugary soft drinks, diet sodas are an improvement because they don't have 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar (per 12-ounce serving), which contributes to weight gain, says Micheal Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.But diet soda is no health food, Jacobson says. Animal studies have raised cancer concerns about some of the artificial sweeteners in drinks, including aspartame and acesulfame potassium, he says. And the caramel coloring in colas contains two cancer-causing chemicals and should be banned, Jacobson says. There is "clear evidence of toxicity in animals."On top of that, the acids in the soda can cause dental erosion, especially for someone who drinks a lot of it; many people sip on diet sodas all day long, he says. The cancer risks in diet soda are probably small, Jacobson says, "but there is no reason to accept any cancer risk in a worthless junk food, whether it's diet soda or regular soda.."Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy for the American Beverage Association, disagrees. "People should be assured that diet soft drinks can be very useful in helping them in a weight-loss program as well as maintenance of weight loss," she says. So how much diet soda is OK?

Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian in Boston and a nutrition blogger at food.usatoday.com, says diet soda has no redeeming qualities other than that it provides fluid, but fluid is good for you. It also may be a significant source of caffeine."There's no hard and fast rule about diet soda intake," she says. "But I think if you are drinking more than 12 ounces a day, you may be running the risk of crowding out other more nutritious beverages, such as the low-fat milk and 1% reduced-fat milk, that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest you drink more of."


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