Can you get hooked on diet soda?
'Government surveys have found that people who drink diet beverages average more than 26 ounces per day (some drink far more) and that 3% of diet-soda drinkers have at least four daily. Are these diet-soda fiends true addicts? And if so, what are they addicted to? The most obvious answer is caffeine -- but that doesn't explain the many die-hard diet drinkers who prefer caffeine-free varieties.' But at least it's not sweetened soda with all attendant problems, such as high blood pressure
, so what about artificial sweeteners?
'Artificial sweeteners may spur drinkers -- or their brains -- to keep chasing a "high" that diet soda keeps forever just out of reach. It's not clear that this teasing effect can lead to dependence, but it's a possibility,' says Martin P. Paulus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego who conducted brain studies of sugar and artificial sweeteners '"Artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects -- meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol, and even drugs of abuse," he says. "Whenever you have that, there is a potential that a subgroup of people ... will have a chance of getting addicted."'Whether you feel dependent or not, drinking too much diet soda might be risky in the long run. In recent years, habitual diet-soda consumption has been linked to an increased risk of low bone mineral density in women, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. What's more, a growing body of research suggests that excessive diet soda intake may actually encourage weight gain.
Researchers are still trying to sort out the counterintuitive link between zero-calorie soda and weight gain. One explanation may be that as your body gets used to experiencing the sweet flavor of diet soda without absorbing any calories, it begins to forget that foods containing real sugar and other carbohydrates do deliver calories.'
'According to the American Psychiatric Association, a key sign of substance dependence is when a person continues to use a substance even when he or she knows it's causing physical or mental health problems.' Many do fit that criterion. Ellen Talles 'She was diagnosed with brittle bones about six years ago, and her internist urged her to quit Diet Coke because the phosphoric acid in soda -- both diet and regular -- leaches calcium from bones, which can make osteoporosis worse.
She's not having it, though. "It's not like I smoke or have any other bad habits," she says. "This is my thing." All the same, Talles acknowledges that drinking so much diet soda is probably not good for her, so in the last couple of months, she's started substituting one of her daily Diet Cokes for a caffeinated Crystal Light.
Another distinguishing feature of substance dependence -- whether it's to caffeine, nicotine, or hard drugs like heroin -- is the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur if a person tries to quit cold turkey. Although it's difficult to pinpoint whether aspartame, caffeine, or some combination of ingredients is responsible, people who cut back on diet soda report symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and irritability -- a feeling that Talles knows well.'
Of course, perhaps you are only drinking the soda to get an uncomfortably full bladder. Because apparently an uncomfortably full bladder leads you to make better decisions about your life
. For the really tough big decisions, drink until you can't wait to pee.