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Diet soda may do more harm than good

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Artificial sweeteners in diet soda may be harmful to your body

Studies found diet soda drinkers had higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on CNN.com in 2013.

CNN —  

Diet soda drinkers have the same health issues as those who drink regular soda, according to a report published Wednesday.

Purdue University researchers reviewed a dozen studies published in the past five years that examined the relationship between consuming diet soda and health outcomes for the report, published as an opinion piece in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. They say they were “shocked” by the results.

“Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health,” said Susan Swithers, the author of this opinion piece and a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences. “But in reality, it has a counterintuitive effect.”

Artificial sweeteners in diet soda fulfill a person’s craving for a sweet taste without the calories. But that’s the problem, according to researchers. Think of it like crying wolf.

Fake sugar teases your body by pretending to give it real food. But when your body doesn’t get the things it expects to get, it becomes confused on how to respond.

“You’ve messed up the whole system, so when you consume real sugar, your body doesn’t know if it should try to process it because it’s been tricked by the fake sugar so many times,” Swithers said.

On a physiological level, this means when diet soda drinkers consume real sugar, the body doesn’t release the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure.

Diet soda drinkers also tend to pack on more pounds than those who don’t, the report says.

“The taste of sweet does cause the release of insulin, which lowers blood sugar, and if carbohydrates are not consumed, it causes a drop in blood sugar, which triggers hunger and cravings for sugar,” said CNN diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis.

The artificial sweeteners also dampen the “reward center” in your brain, which may lead you to indulge more calorie-rich, sweet-tasting food, according to the report.

The American Beverage Association says the report was “an opinion piece, not a scientific study.”