I think that most people can agree on the fact that soda in general is bad for you. However, there is a lot of debate as to which type of soda is worse for you: regular soda or diet soda. Being an avid (yet slightly concerned) Diet Coke drinker, I decided to do some research on the topic.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins reported that "obese and overweight people who drink diet sodas tend to eat more calories during meals and from snacks throughout the day than those who drink sugary beverages, including regular soda." However, in healthy weight adults, the opposite was true: those who drank sugary beverages such as regular soda ate more than those who drank diet sodas.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who swapped regular soda for either water or diet soda ate fewer calories. Even more impressive is that those who drank diet soda (not water) ended up eating fewer desserts by the end of the study.
According to Medical Daily, the increased consumption of the empty calories in regular sodas is a potential cause of the current obesity epidemic in America. Dr. Christopher Ochner did the math and pointed out that, "If everything else in their diet is equal, a person who has a can of Coke a day adds an extra 14.5 pounds per year, just from the calories alone."
This shocking statement really puts it in perspective how much drinking just one can of soda per day can add up and negatively affect one's weight.
Additionally, diets that are too high in the refined sugar found in regular sodas can reduce the production of a chemical in the brain known as BDNF, which can inhibit learning and memory formation. Consumption of regular sodas has also been linked to increased heart attack risk and the chance of developing asthma.
The sugar vs. artificial sweetener debate goes beyond weight loss/gain and sugar cravings. Another area of debate between the pros and cons of drinking diet vs. regular soda is the effect on dental hygiene.
I was happy to read that bacteria in the mouth (which is essentially plaque) needs real sugar to grow, and because diet soda gets its flavoring from artificial sweeteners (not real sugar), diet sodas will not contribute to potential cavities like normal sodas will (yay, point for Diet Coke!). Unfortunately, upon further reading I learned that the acid in diet sodas can strip the enamel from your teeth over time and leave them extremely vulnerable to cavities.
After all this research, I would recommend choosing diet soda if you prefer to not drink empty calories, are concerned about your risk of heart attack, or if you just really like the taste better. But then again, some studies have shown that at the end of the day diet soda drinkers consume more food calories because they crave the real sugar that diet sodas lack, and therefore end up consuming more calories and sugar than had they just drank a regular soda.
If you want to avoid immediate cavities, say no to normal soda, but just know that drinking diet soda eventually will wear down the enamel and make you more susceptible to cavities in the future. If you aren't worried about empty calories and like the taste of a classic soda, opt for regular. But then again you're putting yourself at a higher risk for heart attacks.
In conclusion, both types of soda (diet and regular) are not good for you, which is most likely not new information. They both have zero nutritional value, as well as many negative health risks. There are a lot of "but, then agains" when going back and forth between which one is worse than the other.
Therefore, the main takeaway from my research is that both regular and diet sodas have different, yet just as severe risks. If you chose to drink soda, it's really a question of picking between the lesser of the two evils based on what aspects of your health are most important to you.