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Turns Out, Diet Soda Is Even Worse for You Than We Thought

Calorie-free? Yes—but health and longevity studies suggest diet soda comes with rarely discussed dangers.

With all the buzz in recent years about the dangers of full-sugar soda, it can seem easy to assume that diet soft drinks are "healthier" than their sugary counterparts. However, in addition to being linked with higher rates of substance dependency than even cocaine addiction, some scientists are speaking out to spotlight the health problems diet soda can cause to your overall wellness and even your longevity.

USA Today recently reported that the media and consumer research company, 24/7 Tempo, performed an in-depth meta-analysis of studies on the health effects of diet soft drinks. Keep reading to learn the medical problems that diet soda may actually lead to—and, don't miss Customers Are Noticing This Widespread Issue With Chick-fil-A's Food.

Diet soda has been associated with cardiovascular problems.

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The report cites a 2012 study that followed more than 2,500 participants for a decade. Individuals who consumed diet soda saw a 43% greater chance of heart attack or other cardiovascular illness than did participants who drank regular cola (though from this report, it's not entirely clear how much or how frequently they drank either).

The report also suggests that diet soda consumption is linked to high blood pressure, possibly due to the sodium content which is a major ingredient for flavoring many diet drinks. High blood pressure happens to be a factor that can significantly increase stroke risk, which a 2017 study suggests also increases with diet beverage consumption.

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Diet soda's been linked with weight-related health problems.

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Totally counterintuitive, yes—but, despite their zero-calorie content, our source suggests that diet soft drinks may actually cause obesity.

Some behavioral health research has demonstrated that artificially sweetened drinks can lead to over-consuming other foods and beverages, since fake sweetener can leave the brain unsatiated… thus, craving more treats.

Research has shown that diet pop may also lead to an increase in body mass index ("BMI"), and abdominal obesity. Plus, in one study, daily "diet" drinkers saw a nearly 70% higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, another study concluded that diabetics who drink more than four diet sodas per week were twice as likely to suffer blindness or other vision problems that can be related to diabetes.

RELATED: This One Diet Can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes, New Study Suggests

Diet drinks may be harmful to your brain health.

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24/7 Tempo's report mentions one 2017 study that found the chance of dementia can increase three-fold among individuals over age 60 who drink one diet soda each day.

(Interested in preventing dementia? Read This Decreases Your Risk of Dementia Considerably, Study Finds.)

It might also be bad for your bone health. 

Orthopedics doctor showing senior patient a slipped disk on a backbone model.
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The report also says that because diet beverages contain phosphorous, they can lower the body's capacity to absorb calcium and lead to bones that are more brittle.

In particular, one study found that women who drank three or more sodas a day had lower bone mineral density in their hips. (However, we should note, it seems this study analyzed the effects of all soda on bone density, not only diet soda.)

RELATED: Popular Foods for Stronger Bones After 50, Say Dietitians

Diet sodas can be harsh on the digestive system.

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One study mentioned in the report found that mice who drank diet soda saw a disruption in the balance of the gut microbiome, while another found that the Aspartame used in many diet drinks causes dysfunction that can lead to fatty liver disease.

They're also linked with blood cancers. 

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Several unhealthy diet habits have been shown to increase the likelihood of cancer in some individuals.

Specifically, this report says a 2016 study called out the sweetener Sucralose (which is also the main ingredient in some sugar substitute products) because it had been shown to cause leukemia and other blood cancers in male mice.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at <em>Eat This, Not That!</em>, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more