There are so many artificially sweetened diet drinks on the market that claim to offer the same great taste as their sugar containing counterparts without any of the calories, which suggests that they are an ideal choice for anyone who is trying to manage their weight but has a hard time getting excited about drinking plain old water all the time. At the same time, its hard to ignore frequent media reports that link artificial sweeteners to dangerous health conditions such as cancer and obesity.
Aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-k and saccharin have all been studied in depth. Some studies have found that exposure to aspartame is associated with cancer in rats and mice. However, it’s important to note that humans and rodents are metabolically different. Humans do not use the same mechanisms as rats and mice to process methanol, which is a biproduct of aspartame and research shows that the dose of aspartame required to have a negative effect on human health is much larger than what most people could consume in a day (equivalent to 18-19 cans of diet pop). Furthermore, there are no studies to suggest that sucralose, in normal doses, has any significant dangerous effects on human health. Acesulfame- k has been shown to be safe in animal studies; however, human studies are still rare, and saccharin was approved for use by Health Canada in 2014 following a thorough review of the research indicating no safety concerns.
But what about the impact of drinking diet pop on your weight loss goals? The popular opinion is that diet pop contributes to weight gain and/or prevents weight loss by way of increasing appetite, spiking blood sugar and preventing fat loss. Currently, there is no convincing data to support any of these claims. In fact, studies show that if calories are kept equal, the same amount of weight can be lost by people drinking both diet pop and regular pop.
The bottom line is that when it comes to hydration, water is always going to be the best choice, but diet pop has not been shown to be harmful to health nor does it have a negative effect on body composition. If your goal is weight loss and the choice is between diet pop and regular pop, diet pop is the lesser of two evils.