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Why Diet Drinks Are Worse Than Sugary Sodas

Why Diet Drinks Are Worse Than Sugary Sodas
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By    |   Monday, 14 December 2015 11:44 PM

If you’ve made the switch from sugary drinks to diet sodas, you may not be doing your body any favors. In fact, diet drinks may be worse than regular soda for your health, says one of the world’s leading experts on sweetened beverages and nutrition.

“People think avoiding sugar is all they need to do, so, with a sense of achievement, they reach for another diet soda,” says Dr. Eric Reynolds, director of research at the University of Melbourne’s oral health department and former head of the university’s dental school.

This month, Dr. Reynolds and colleagues published a groundbreaking study that found diet sodas and other drinks flavored with artificial sweeteners are as at least as bad for your teeth as regular beverages.

They tested 23 different drinks, including sports beverage and found those with acidic additives, particularly those with low pH measurements, cause great damage to damage tooth enamel.

“Many people aren’t aware that while reducing your sugar intake does reduce risk of tooth cavities the chemical mix of some acids in foods and drinks causes the equally damaging condition of dental erosion,” Dr Reynolds tells Newsmax Health.

Diet sodas are high in acid content, particularly phosphoric acid and citric acids. When you drink diet soda “teeth are swimming in acid.”

Instead of cavities developing in spots of high bacterial concentration, teeth are eroded across their whole surface.

“In severe cases, erosion exposes the soft pulp of the teeth. Eroded teeth are more susceptible to cavities because bacteria penetrate more deeply,” Dr. Reynolds explains. He describes dental erosion caused by diet sodas as “a new epidemic — and the only way to beat it is by awareness.”
Another danger: After trashing calorie-rich sodas, consumers who drink sugar-free beverages may inadvertently consume more sugary foods to compensate.

“People who use artificial sweeteners may replace lost calories with other sources,” notes researcher Dr. David Ludwig, a weight-loss and obesity specialist at the Harvard University-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Many consumers may feel “I’m drinking diet soda so it’s okay to have cake,” Dr. Ludwig notes.

Backing this up, the respected San Antonio Heart Study discovered that people who drink more than 21 diet sodas weekly are “twice as likely to become overweight or obese [as] those who didn’t drink diet soda.”

Artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may also pose other health risks. Numerous studies have linked fake sugars to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, liver damage, and kidney stones.

Popular sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are also a worry, with both contributing to dental erosion in the study, according to Dr. Reynolds’ research.

“Sports beverages are specially formulated carbohydrate-electrolyte products designed to provide fast rehydration,” the researchers noted. “Although these drinks are usually not sugar-free, they’re often perceived by consumers to be a healthier alternative to traditional soft drinks, [but] the majority of sports drinks caused enamel hardness to decrease by 30 to 50 percent.” 

Dentists have noticed increased detail erosion among heavy consumers of sports drinks.

Most sugar-free drinks sold at schools were found by Dr. Reynolds’ team to be to be dentally corrosive, as well.

While Dr. Reynolds’ team confined itself to the direct effects of diet drinks on dental health, “a growing body of evidence links oral disease to other health conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease, respiratory diseases, inflammatory diseases, and some cancers,” the researchers noted.

“People have become so conscious of sugar content that they ignore other ingredients of which they should be aware — such as acid,” Dr. says. “The average consumer just isn’t aware that frequent consumption of these diet drinks can cause dental erosion.”

Nonetheless, he doesn’t suggest diet soda be shunned altogether.

“A few cans a week probably won’t harm you,” he notes. “But if you have a few cans a day you may develop serious dental problems.”

Dr. Reynolds offers the following tips for reducing your risks from diet beverages:

Drink more water and limit diet sodas and sports drinks.
  • If you do drink sugar-free soda, don’t brush your teeth for an hour afterward because you may increase erosion of softened enamel. It’s better to rinse immediately with water and brush later.
  • Check ingredients before buying. Become familiar with code numbers, if these are used — specifically for citric and phosphoric acids. For instance, Dr. Reynolds notes that Coke Zero has more phosphoric acid than regular Coca-Cola but most people may not know this or think it doesn’t matter. “Companies are playing around with formulations to develop more interesting tastes — and they’re succeeding but at the expense of dental health,” he says.
  • Have regular check-ups with your oral health professional.
“Cutting out sugar is good to reduce dental cavities and we’ve been successful in making people aware of the harm sugar can do,” Dr. Reynolds adds. “But it is replaced by diet sodas and the like which open the door to cavities by weakening enamel.

“We’ve tended to focus on sugar. Industry has adapted by making sugar-free variants. But I’m not convinced that these sugar-free variants are good for you. They certainly not good for you teeth.”

© 2020 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

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If you've made the switch from sugary drinks to diet sodas, you may be doing more harm than good to your health. One of the world's leading experts on soda and nutrition explains why sugar-free drinks may be worse than regular soda.
diet, drink, health, sugar, soda, beverage, obesity, diabetes, heart, disease
Monday, 14 December 2015 11:44 PM
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