General Question

andrew's avatar

Who wins the kill-you-faster award: Soda or Diet Soda?

Asked by andrew (16358points) October 3rd, 2007

We know that “both” is the correct answer, but if you were forced to drink a can of one or the other every day, which would be “worse” for your health? Empty calories or aspartame?

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18 Answers

dr_photo's avatar

I’d say its a tie but not because of the empty calories argument.

Everyone knows of the potential health hazards in aspartame, but what about high fructose corn syrup (the flavoring in soda). It’s used because it’s a cheeper alternative to sugar however it also has the problem of causing you to feel hungry even when you are not (ever wonder why you get free refills of soda and not anything else?).

Then there is the problem of sodium benzoate, a preservative in BOTH.
Sodium benzoate on its own is pretty bad (causes damage to mitochondrial DNA), however when combined with vitamin C, or heat, or…well…time…it degrades into benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen and one of the basic components in crude oil.

No thanks, I’m gonna stick to fruit juice mixed with carbonated water.

hossman's avatar

OK, a topic now that consumes me. I love soda. I’m diabetic. What do I drink? I’m concerned about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on the kidneys and liver. I love cane sugar sodas but can’t drink them. A large part of my being diabetic could be my former 2–3 litre/day Mountain Dew habit (Mountain Dew and beef jerky – the breakfast of champions).

Tea and water sometimes just don’t cut it. My doctor clearly doesn’t want to talk about the negatives re artificial sweeteners because he thinks I’ll end up switching back to sugar. So what’s a soda freak to do?

hossman's avatar

And I see maltitol showing up in a lot of “sugar free” foods. Is this stuff bad too?

occ's avatar

@hossman, this won’t truly fix diet-coke cravings, but one idea for a healthier alternative is to squeeze lime or lemon into club soda/ seltzer…It’s not as sweet but it is flavored and fizzy…

hossman's avatar

Actually, I don’t crave diet soda at all, I want the full-leaded, old-fashioned cane sugar stuff, but diet has to do. Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve tried it, and it just doesn’t do the trick for some reason. I absolutely love homemade ginger ale, but the quantity of sweetener involved to mellow the ginger brings me back to our two bad options.

theabk's avatar

I think the evidence comes down pretty strongly on the side of regular soda being worse. The scientific evidence on the whole is that aspartame does not cause cancer or other health problems. (The one well-supported risk I could fine was a relative risk for bladder cancer of 1.3, which was equivalent to the relative risk from having 1–2 urinary tract infections.) I know there is a lot of fear about artificial sweeteners in the popular media, but it really does not seem to be well founded. There’s a good review article (free) at
On the other hand, while sugar is obviously not bad for you per se (it’s just food), the dangers of obesity are extensive and extremely well-documented, and regular soda is an easy way to rack up billions of calories without even getting full. On a population basis, certainly, I think regular soda is by far a bigger menace.

gailcalled's avatar

Ice water, fresh mint, lemon juice, emergen’C is not bad…Iced herbal teas (rasberry, peach, apple, etc) w. bits of fresh rasberries, peaches, apples, etc.

mirza's avatar

all kinds of soda is bad for one’s health but still i find myself drink a can of Diet Pepsi everyday

gailcalled's avatar


susanc's avatar

hossman is not asking (are you, h?) for recipes involving healthy delicious real fruits.
he can’t have much fruit sugar either. what he wants is support in the hideous
fact of his life, which is that he’s had to give up 2–3 litres a day of Mtn Dew. I myself
used to live on Pepsi (full-bore, though I was constantly being brought DIET P – completely disgusting – by helpful waitpersons who made the assumption that as a woman, and a juicy huggable woman at that, I would not want calories). Real, honest, hi-sugar, hi-caff Pepsi sustained me through years and years of heartache and boredom. I want it. But I had to let it go – not diabetic, just got too wired.
Letting go of a substance that gives us love is horrible.
hossman deserves our congratulations and deep, deep sympathy.
There is no substitute for sugar and caffeine in a nice tall glass fizzing with energy.
None. This is a heroic, tragic story. Amen.

gailcalled's avatar

susanc; I hope that you are lighting up an unfiltered camel as you write and also brewing pots of double espresso in your new little house.

hossman's avatar

Thank you for your eulogy for my addiction, susanc. Very kind. Were the waitpersons really knowingly bringing you Diet Pepsi instead of regular? Heathen barbarians. Although I now grudgingly drink it, the cloying sweetness of diet soda must figure prominently in one of the circles of Hell. For someone to deliberately substitute your judgment and bring you what they think you “want” or “need” rather than what you asked for, would be infuriating. I myself have waited plenty of tables, and I’m sure I have at times innocently mixed up one person’s cola with another one’s diet cola. I’ve always had a problem with distinguishing between the two visually after it has settled in the glass.

And since I can’t have the fruit sugars either, something like my homemade ginger ale (which is like being served angel ambrosia) is out because of the sugar and the lime juice.

And sweet tea is now dead to me forever. I’ve tried to make it with artificial sweetener (which is a hanging offense in Georgia) and it just isn’t the same. Goodbye mint juleps and Sazaracs. The adjectives “hearty,” “rich” and “creamy” have also largely disappeared. While I do find pleasure in lean grilled meat and fresh vegetables, many of my favorite foods and drinks are gone, because if I can’t make them the way they were meant to be, I’m not going to try to console myself with shallow substitutes. Some things were just meant to be bold, vibrant and full of flavor. I’d rather leave Queen Latifah forever than live on with Paris Hilton.

hossman's avatar

Our family motto: Quodque abunde excoxi lardum. “Everything goes better with bacon”

joli's avatar

I personally believe the diet soda with the man-made ingredients causes cancer if taken in daily large doses. As one example a woman I knew well used aspartame in abundance during her pregnancy, and her 5 month old daughter developed cancer first in one eye, then in one leg. After intermittant remission it grew into her brain and she passed by the age of 10 years old. I would never say her mother was at fault, but I’m suspicious of the circumstance. This was the early to mid 80’s when the stuff was all over the place, on the table, in foods, the beginning of diet soft-drinks.

emilyrose's avatar

I bet the waitresses DID bring diet on purpose. I used to scoop ice cream and would actually give my dieting (eating disordered) friends ice cream instead of lowfat or frozen yogurt like they asked for. ha ha! i’m kind of surprised that no one has said anything about lowering sugar and the cravings go away. i used to be a total candy addict, buying multiple types a day, and now it all grosses me out because i made a conscious effort to cut down. could doing a soda fast for a few weeks make the cravings go away????

hossman's avatar

I think the physical part of the craving has largely diminished now that I’m not drinking regular soda. I still have the desire for the taste (NO diet soda tastes like the regular) and I still have the stubborn, pig-headed, nobody’s gonna tell me what to do resentment.

susanc's avatar

@hossman: Great stories. Emilyrose is right, though: the longer we can stay away from the great stuff, the less we miss it. Ave atque vale to the Sazeracs, such a pity.
@gail: I never smoked, pigheaded like hossman, everyone said I should so I didn’t, and that may be one of the reasons I was never truly thin.
I DO brew up a personal triple espresso while still 3/4 asleep in order to greet the morning courteously. No one can persuade me not to.

About the Diet Pepsi: the waitpersons in question – always women, now that I think about it – generally said, when asked to replace Diet with Real Pepsi, Oh, I thought YOU WOULD WANT Diet. They were reading my demographic. Not my lips.

hossman's avatar

Nobody up here can make a Sazerac anyway, and I’ve never been able to make one myself that satisfied me.

I would have the opposite problem with waitstaff. I actually seldom eat dessert, but if you look like a big, furry bear like me, everyone assumes you’re getting ready to hibernate and packing on the calories. Not only would waiters always push desserts on me, but when I wait tables, customers would ignore their own waitstaff to ask me about the dessert. Occassionally I would make a comment like “The problem with the desserts here is they insist on cutting them into slices, rather than just letting me at the box with a ladle.” Usually met by a moment of silence while they try to figure out if I’m kidding.

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