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Is diet soda better for you than regular?

Cleveland Clinic dietitian gives three reasons why you should cut the diet drink out all together.
The Colorado State of Education will vote to modify regulations on healthy beverages. The change, if passed, will open the door for diet soda to be served in high schools.

CLEVELAND — So you've made the switch from regular soda to diet soda in the name of health. Congratulations! But is your new habit that much better than your old?

Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD shares some advice of why you might want to kick soda to the curb all together.

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"Switching from regular to diet soda may offer a short term cut in calories, but your body won't be fooled for long," Kirkpatrick says. "Research suggests that your body reacts to certain nonnutritive foods, including the artificial sweeteners in diet soda, in ways that may actually harm your health."

Research suggests that the brain reacts to artificial sweeteners in similarly to sugary sweets. A high-intake of these may result in an increased craving for high-calorie foods, putting you at a greater risk of weight gain and losing self-control around those sugary treats.

It is also possible that diet soda may cause your body to release insulin in association with the intake of artificial sweeteners, Kirkpatrick explains. One study found that individuals who consumed the specific sweetener, sucralose, had increases in both insulin and blood glucose levels. Frequent spikes in insulin have been known to be linked to insulin resistance and an increase risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Lastly, soda may change your brain's reaction to sweetness, research has found. 

"Some research suggests that those who drink diet soda have higher activity in the area of the brain associated with the desire to consume foods high in fat and sugar. So those who drink diet soda seem to alert the brain's sweet-sensing reward center," Kirkpatrick says. This means that the brain could possibly react to cravings for high-calorie foods differently because of diet soda. 

In the end, is it better to just drink regular soda? "Not so fast," says Kirkpatrick. "There is abundant data that tells us that sugar (even when it's 'real') is not necessarily a sweeter alternative, at least when health is concerned." Kirkpatrick suggests some plain coffee or tea to curb that caffeine craving or fruit in soda water as an alternative while you kick soda to the curb all together.

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