Health Alert: Are Diet Drinks Really That Bad?


ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Are the diet drinks in a store cooler all bad?

"Let's say someone is drinking liters of Coke a day and wants to lose weight and make healthier lifestyle changes, switching to a diet beverage could be an option," Elizabeth Holmes said, a registered dietitian with Mission Health.

All artificial sweeteners are not the same.

Saccharine, also branded as Sweet N Low, is still found in TaB and a few other drinks. Because of bitter tatse and unfounded concerns about causing cancer, it is not nearly as common as it was in the 1970s.

Aspartame or Equal/Nutra Sweet is found in many diet drinks, including Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

"I have to have my diet drink," hairstylist Michelle Taylor said. "Every morning I drink Coke Zero regardless."

Diet Pepsi recently switched to sucralose or Splenda, getting rid of aspartame.

Do you know the difference between saccharine, aspartame, sucralose?

"Not really," replied Megan Penland, also a hairstylist.

"I'm basing it on what I read and what people say about it," added Berbbie Pressley, owner of 3's Company Hair and Nails.

"Aspartame is made from amino acids that are joined chemically together, and Splenda is actually made from sugar with some processing, but they are both artificial sweeteners," said Holmes. "There has been some research that shows negative reax with aspartame which may be the switch with Pepsi from aspartame to Splenda because there is less negative research about Splenda."

Like saccharine, there have been questionable studies trying to link aspartame to cancer.

Diet Pepsi is marketing no aspartame at every turn but sucralose itself has been studied for cancer risks

Holmes added: "There's not a lot of scientific evidence to support dangers, if you look at most medical societies they generally regard them as safe."

But not necessarily effective according to Dr. Dave LaMond of Blue Sky MD.

"Any of the sweeteners really affect your hormones. So they affect your hormones, how we store fuels, how we process hunger and how satisifed we are, " he said.

That means diet sodas may cause some people to eat more and gain weight.

Doctor's office receptionist Lauren Constant gave up all artificial sweeteners 18 months ago.

"I hit it hard and I really did put 100 percent into changing my life and the way I eat," she explained. "I used to get headaches a lot. I don't have any of that anymore."

"In general, water is always the best option," Holmes said.

"Drink water, good old fashioned water works well," Lamond agreed.

And water may help you reach you health goals faster and healthier than any soda at all.