Written by Otho Nash

Last week as I was walking through Sam’s Club, I saw a guy with multiple packs of Diet Coke in his basket. I counted not one, not two, not three, but six. SIX packs of Diet Coke!! Wow!! I started asking myself if he might think that drinking Diet Coke would be a healthier alternative to drinking regular soda. Could he actually think a diet or zero soda would help him to lose weight and curb his sugar appetite at the same time? Here, I will talk about the differences between regular sodas and diet/zero sodas, and how diet and zero drinks are not as healthy as some people think.

There are similarities and differences between regular sodas and diet/zero sodas. Both provide little to no nutritional value; instead, they both can lead to weight gain and possibly to chronic disease (Lehman and Cervoni). While they have either sugars or artificial sweeteners added to them, the main difference between the two is the sugar content. Regular sodas, such as Coke and Pepsi, contain a minimum of 39 grams of sugar per 12 oz can, which is more than 80% of the recommended daily intake for a healthy diet. On the other hand, diet and zero sodas such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero do not contain sugar, but use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin to make up for the lack of sugar sweetness (Villines and Marengo). 

Diet Coke in the Diet Soda Debate

Aspartame has a spotty history. Consuming aspartame was once linked to being a cause of cancer, but further research has found no consistent connection between aspartame consumption and cancer development (Cancer Treatment Centers of America). It is stated to be derived from protein and is considered to be safe and FDA approved. However, aspartame has been linked to side effects such as headaches, weight gain, depression and Alzeheimer’s disease (Healthline Editorial Team and Butler). Overall, consuming diet and zero sodas may lead to numerous risks such as heart disease, diabetes, teeth decay and stroke, and unfortunately it can actually increase your sugar cravings (Laderer). 

I used to say that your best bet would be to consume a regular soda, like Coke or Pepsi, as opposed to consuming Diet Coke or Coke Zero. But considering this recent research, I think that it would be best to go without both. That is, unless you have a taste for soda or some form of carbonation, then I would suggest drinking regular soda or sparkling water. I am not proposing to anyone in any way, shape, or form to drink Coke regularly – as a matter of fact, I haven’t had a can or a bottle of Coke since using Coke a few times to clean my battery from corrosion. Just think about what Coke is doing to your internal organs if it is doing that to the corrosion on your car’s battery. But that’s a topic for another day. My choice is Dr. Pepper if anything else. (It just tastes better!)

Otho Nash holding a bottle of water

There are other alternatives, such as bottled water (of course), even though many of us do not care for bottled water due its lack of taste or sweetness. You can add a slice of lemon, lime, or any other citrus fruit (other than grapefruit, as it can affect certain medications) to your bottled water. This is great for heart health and improving your metabolism, as well as reducing calorie intake (Leech and Arnarson). I may have to try sparkling water myself, as sparkling water has just as many health benefits as regular water. But all sparkling waters are not the same, as some contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners (WebMD Medical Reference and Brennan). Other alternatives include consuming fruits (which have natural sugars), as well as unsweetened coffee and tea. 

So, next time you’re walking in Walmart, Sam’s or HEB and you find yourself in the soda aisle, do not be like the guy that I saw in Sam’s, who had SIX packs of Diet Coke… Crazy, right?! I just hope that he and/or his family didn’t go through all of those six packs in one week. Geez…


Works Cited

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “Risk Factors of Aspartame.” Aspartame and Cancer Risk, 21 May 2021, Accessed 19 September 2021.

Healthline Editorial Team, and Natalie Butler. “The Truth about Aspartame Side Effects.” The Truth about Aspartame Side Effects, 17 September 2018, Accessed 19 September 2021.

Laderer, Ashley. “Is Diet Soda Bad for You? Health Risks & Soda Alternatives.” All The Ways Diet Soda Is Unhealthy for You & What to Drink Instead, 5 November 2020, Accessed 19 September 2021.

Leech, Joe, and Atli Arnarson. “Lemon Water 101: What Are The Benefits of Drinking it?” Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water, 14 May 2020, Accessed 19 September 2020.

Lehman, Shereen, and Barbie Cervoni. “How Much Sugar is in a Can of Soda?”, 14 January 2021, Accessed 19 September 2021.

Villines, Zawn, and Katherine Marengo. “Is Diet Soda Bad for You? Everything You Need to Know.” Is Diet Soda Bad for You? Know the Health Risks, 31 July 2019, Accessed 19 September 2021.

WebMD Medical Reference, and Dan Brennan. “Sparkling Water: Are There Benefits? Pros & Cons.” Sparkling Water: Are There Benefits?, 6 October 2020, Accessed 20 September 2021.