Is Diet Soda Bad for You?

According to Grand View Research, diet sodas have increased in popularity over the years, likely hitting over 2 billion in sales by 2025. Increasing interest in healthier eating has inspired many people to switch to diet soda to lose weight and minimize their sugar intake. However, there’s a common refrain among those trying this switch: is diet soda bad for you?

It’s a serious concern because research and various scaremongering reports have tried to link diet soda to heart disease, blood sugar, and even cancer. Some even believe that diet soda is worse than regular soda due to its high influx of artificial ingredients. Why is diet soda for you, if it is, and what are the major diet soda risks? Let’s dive in to find out.

In this article, we’ll try to figure out why diet soda is bad for you, what diet soda risks you might experience, and whether or not it’s a good lifestyle choice. Whether you’re a regular diet soda drinker or are interested in trying it out, it’s important to read on to learn more. Doing so could help you answer the question, “Is diet soda bad for you?” and make intelligent buying decisions.

a photo of diet soda

What is Diet Soda?

Diet soda is a unique combination of various chemicals and ingredients that produce a sweet drink without sugar. Instead, diet sodas use sugar alternatives or artificial sweeteners to give them a nice taste. Though it doesn’t taste quite the same as a traditional soda, a diet drink usually has a fairly sweet flavor that some people prefer over normal, sugary drinks.

However, the question “Is diet soda bad for you?” keeps popping up, with many articles examining this topic. Clearly, people are confused about what’s in diet soda and what these ingredients can do to a person’s body. Let’s break down the composition of these drinks to answer the questions “Why is diet soda bad for you?” and “What diet soda risks affect me?”

Diet Soda Composition: Surprisingly Complex

Diet soda consists of multiple ingredients that give it a unique taste and texture. These include the following (not always so healthy) items:

  • Carbonated Water: This ingredient is made by dissolving carbon dioxide with water to produce carbonic acid. It adds that unique texture to soda but isn’t very healthy. In fact, you can actually use it to get rid of coffee stains on your clothing or furniture.
  • Caramel Coloring: Caramel color is a type of burned sugar that produces the brown color you get in a color. Without caramel coloring, your sodas would lack that look. It’s not that harmful unless you eat more than 200 mg/kg of body weight: very rare indeed.
  • Aspartame: A controversial diet soda ingredient, aspartame is the artificial sweetener that gives diet soda a bad name. It comes in just about every diet soda, though there are others that use different artificial sweeteners to provide a more health-conscious approach.
  • Phosphoric Acid: Phosphoric acid is an important ingredient in diet sodas but is another controversial one. We’ll talk more about why these items are problematic later, as phosphoric acid, in particular, gets hit hard by anti-diet-soda advocates – yes, they exist.

Other ingredients include potassium benzoate, various natural flavorings, citric acid, and caffeine. Add them (and others) all together in a special way, and you have diet soda. While the various diet soda brands may use slightly different combinations and flavorings, these are the basic ingredients that will be used to produce almost every diet soda on the market today.

Common Diet Soda Brands

Diet soda comes from many manufacturers and provides various tastes, including:

  • Diet Pepsi
  • Diet Dr. Pepper
  • Diet Coke
  • Zero Sugar Sunkist
  • Diet Sprite
  • Pepsi Zero
  • Coca-Cola Zero
  • Diet 7UP
  • Reed’s Zero Sugar Ginger Ale
  • Fit Soda
  • Poppi
  • Culture Pop
  • United Sodas

Note that some of these “diet” sodas don’t use artificial ingredients. For example, Poppi uses small amounts of sugar that cut down on the flavor and calories. Many of these alternative sodas also add healthy gut bacteria to make them a little healthier. However, we’re not talking about them when we discuss the health effects of your traditional diet soda, like Diet Pepsi.

a man drinks diet soda

Health Effects of Diet Soda

Here comes the toughest question to answer: “Is diet soda bad for you?” And if so, why is diet soda bad for you? Knowing why diet soda is bad for you is important because diet soda risks can be very concerning. Let’s examine some research findings on this topic, as well as some controversial subjects, to get the insight that you need to make a smart drink choice.

Gut Health Concerns

Some research has found that diet soda could disrupt your gut health by damaging your gut biome. The gut biome plays a major part in nutrient absorption heart health, and immune system support. In a few studies, it was found that large amounts of diet soda could cause gut bacterial imbalances. However, there’s some conflicting information about these findings.

Tooth Damage

Many people probably drink diet soda to avoid the excessive sugar that could damage their teeth. However, they might not realize that the heavily acidic nature of sodas does far more damage to a person’s teeth than sugar. While diet soda may not cause more dental damage than regular soda, drinking too much of it could cause serious tooth decay.

Heart Disease

Some studies have found that diet soda is linked to atrial fibrillation risk or irregular heart rhythms. Whether this is due to the artificial sweeteners or the caffeine in many sodas is uncertain. Another study found that more than two servings of artificially sweetened beverages were 20% more likely to have heart disease – though that was lower than regular soda.

Blood Sugar

While diet soda isn’t likely to raise your blood sugar, it could cause problematic eating behaviors that do. For example, someone drinking a can of diet soda may feel emboldened to eat potato chips or other unhealthy snacks. Furthermore, ingredients like caffeine can raise blood sugar levels, which kind of negates the whole benefit of switching to diet soda in the first place.

Bone Health

Ingredients like phosphoric acid in diet soda could increase a person’s risk of bone health issues. Caffeine also potentially increases your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Various studies have had some conflicting results on this subject, but it’s serious enough to keep in mind if you’re a heavy diet soda drinker or are thinking of switching to it soon.

Other Potential Issues

More minor health problems you might experience from drinking diet soda include:

  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Irritability
  • Sugar cravings

Diet Soda Controversies

Diet soda is no stranger to controversy, especially when researching the question “Is diet soda bad for you?” There are many people who will explain why diet soda is bad for you and highlight diet soda risks. However, the following controversies are still under heavy scrutiny. When researching why diet soda is bad for you,” it’s important to know about these and others.

Artificial Sweeteners \When you go shopping in a supermarket, you probably see tons of artificial sweeteners that advertise their overall health. But are they really healthier than normal sugar? There’s a massive amount of debate on this subject, with some arguing that they’re more dangerous. Some even believe regular soda is safer than diet soda, though both can trigger serious health issues.


The news is filled with reports stating that diet sodas cause cancer. But is that true? Well, it’s true that studies on rats exposed to high levels of artificial sweeteners did develop tumors. However, these studies used such excessive amounts (far more than a person would ever drink) that some people debate the results. Keep your eye on the news for more information.

Weight Loss

People trying to lose weight by drinking diet soda are likely to be disappointed – studies show that the very sweet nature of artificial sweeteners can affect a person’s body in various ways. It might trigger the impulse to eat other sweet foods or even disrupt your metabolism. Though there’s still heavy debate about this point, it’s one to watch if you’re trying to lose weight.

Alternatives to Diet Soda

If you think that diet soda risks are too high for your liking, there are many alternatives you can consider. These might not have the same sweet taste you’re used to, but they are typically healthier and less problematic. For example, you could try:

  • Unsweetened black iced tea to get the caffeine you enjoy from your soda
  • Bubly, a sparkling water with caffeine and no calories or sugar
  • La Croix, a slightly flavored sparkling water with a carbonated texture
  • Hint, another sparkling water with caffeine and no artificial sweeteners
  • Aha, a caffeinated sparkling water with a nice taste and various flavors
  • Spindrift, a very low-calorie drink with carbonation and real juices
  • Waterloo, a purified water with an optimal pH balance and a good taste

The benefits of switching away from diet soda are legion. You’re limiting your exposure to artificial sweeteners while still getting a tasty alternative to water. Furthermore, you can get lighter amounts of caffeine that can give you an energy boost without making you twitchy.

Tips for Transitioning From Diet Soda

If you’re looking to transition away from diet soda but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few steps to consider:

  1. Never keep soda at home to make transitioning easier
  2. Find a soda alternative that you can keep at home
  3. Order water or teas at restaurants instead
  4. Stay hydrated to avoid caffeine/sugar withdrawals
  5. Slowly wean yourself off by cutting out one soda every week


You now know the answer to the question “Is diet soda bad for you?” and understand diet soda risks. Do you think it’s something you want to try, even though you know why diet soda is bad for you? Well, it’s important to continually make informed decisions about all your dietary needs, including picking the healthiest beverages for your needs and one that fits your taste.

Talk with your doctor to answer the question “Why is diet soda bad for you” if you need more personalized information. They can help you better understand your risks and make it easier to choose alternatives. Never make major dietary changes without discussing them with your doctor, as they can make this process easier and keep you safe and healthy for years to come.

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Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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