Is Diet Soda Bad for You?


photo courtesy of coca-cola

Ryan Torris

You might have heard a phrase along the lines of “Is diet soda bad for you” or “Artificial sweeteners give you cancer,” but are these claims true? I wish I could give a “yes” or “no” answer, but it is not that clear. By the end of this article, you will be able to draw your own conclusion on these questions.


Let me start with why someone might drink diet soda and use an artificial sweetener instead of their normal counterparts like regular soda and table sugar. Artificial sweeteners are lower in calories than normal table sugar, and some of them have close to 0 calories. Diet soda is basically carbonated flavored water, sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Both of these are low in calories, and they could be an appealing option for people who would want to decrease their caloric intake. But, some people have their doubts about them.


So, is diet soda making you fat? Not exactly. Since diet soda does not have calories, you can not gain weight/fat from drinking it. But what can make you gain fat is over-consuming calories. This is where the problem with diet soda comes in. The problem is when someone drinks diet soda to save calories and thinks “I am being healthy. I can have an extra piece of cake, I deserve it.” This causes people to overcompensate on how many calories they are saving from drinking diet version and then they just end up eating more food overall, which will contribute to weight gain. 


Now let me get to the second question: “Do artificial sweeteners give you cancer?”

According to the National Cancer Institute, “there is no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other serious health problems.” So no, artificial sweeteners are not giving you cancer. That doesn’t automatically make diet soda the way to go. According to, drinking too much diet soda  has been linked to some serious health conditions including “diabetes, fatty liver, dementia, heart disease, and stroke.” Drinking 1-2 cans of diet soda should not have any adverse consequences, but just like anything, too much of it can be bad.


It seems that the majority of the population has an overwhelming bias towards diet soda, and let me tell you why. According to, “early studies showed that cyclamate (an artificial sweetener) in combination with saccharin (another artificial sweetener) caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals.” This is where people could say “well artificial sweeteners cause cancer” and they would be correct if they were referring to lab animals (rats), but not in humans. The problem is there was never a link to humans; it was just thought if it gave a few animals cancer, it could give it to humans too. says “Artificial sweeteners have not provided clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.” As of right now, all FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are safe for human consumption. 

So, what should you drink? Allison Sylvetsky Meni, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health says “If you drink soda regularly, she recommends switching to diet to reduce the risk of weight gain and things like type 2 diabetes—it is the lesser of two evils. But ultimately, cutting soda out completely and sticking to H2O (regular or seltzer), coffee, and tea is the best choice for your overall health.” If you have a sweet tooth and want something to drink that will not be a ton of calories and does not have as many health effects as regular soda, then diet soda could be an option for you. If you want to be 100% healthy, maybe just stick to drinking water.