Lets Breakdown Diet Soda Ingredients

The invention of soda is a low point in American diets. It is full of sugar and a leading contributor to obesity and diabetes in early childhood, as well as adulthood. In response, soda companies starting making diet soda; a calorie-free, sugar-free version using Aspartame instead of sugar. This sounded great and we all bought the hype. But we now know these “diet” versions are actually not diet friendly at all and they certainly aren’t healthy. Lets go through it by each ingredient. I am going to use Diet Coke as the example but I will also talk about Mountain Dew in a future post, which I have a special hatred for!
Diet Soda

Diet Soda Ingredients

  1. Carbonated Water
    • This is just water that has carbon dioxide added to it.
    • The research out there on carbonated water is pretty underwhelming and nothing I would quote. Some say it is bad for your stomach and your bone density, but these claim are neither supported nor disputed by research.
  2. Caramel Color
    • Caramel color contains 4-Mel, a known carcinogen. California recognizes this and requires a warning label for any product containing more than 29 mcg of 4-Mel.
    • So here is the interesting part, soda products were tested for 4-Mel content in California and New York. New York soda products contained 4-Mel at 4 x higher levels than soda in California. Thats right, California has “better” soda than other states?!
    • Of note, when testing California sodas, some had more than the recommended 29 mcg despite not having the warning label.
  3.  Aspartame
    • Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that contains no calories. It is a highly debatable substance with many claims, both positive and negative. Part of the debate occurred because each molecule of Aspartame releases one molecule of methanol which breaks down to produce one molecule of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and has no safe levels of consumption.
    • In addition, aspartame has been shown to alter gut bacteria and to produce insulin resistance (this leads to diabetes type 2, a disease where we become resistance to the insulin we produce).
    • The data has been very inconsistent on human models and most research comes from animal experiments.
  4. Phosphoric Acid
    • Excess phosphorous intake leads to disregulation of calcium and vitamin D. This lead to increased bone resorption and pathologic fractures. The research cannot support the claims that soda consumption leads to osteoporosis. If you have a family history of osteoporosis and are a woman, I would strongly recommend limiting your soda consumption.
    • FYI, there are many videos showing soda as a cleaning agent for rusty coins. This is the compound that removes the rust.
    • Chronic kidney disease patients should avoid soda to avoid excess phosphorous consumption.
  5. Potassium Benzoate
    • This is added to soda to prevent growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold.
    • Potassium is a vital nutrient in our diet and for most people, there is no concern with consuming potassium. Patients with kidney disease, however, need to limit potassium intake and therefore should avoid soda.
    • Benzoic acid is not harmful on its own. However when exposed to heat, light and vitamin C, it is converted to benzene. The FDA lists benzene as a carcinogen. I had little success in finding research showing the link between the amount of potassium benzoate consumption from soda and the risk of cancer.
  6. Natural Flavors
    • What does this even mean?!
    • The FDA says this about natural flavors: “(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors, include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in subpart A of part 582 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.”
  7. Citric Acid
    • This is just Vitamin C and it is added to soda to give it a tart flavor plus extend shelf life.
    • Actually good for you, except when you read above about how it reacts with the benzoic acid in potassium benzoate.
  8.  Caffeine
    • I love me some caffeine!
    • The average 8 fl oz can of diet soda contains 34 mg of caffeine. An 8 ox cup of brewed coffee contains between 80-200mg of caffeine of reference.

Would I Drink Diet Soda?

So there it is, each ingredient of Diet Coke with what it is and what is the potential harm. The research behind these chemicals is based on data for the chemical itself. When research on soda is less informative and often not definitive either way. My opinion, why consume something with so many chemicals that have the potential to cause disease and cancer?

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