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Does Diet Soda Break a Fast?

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD November 16, 2022

Did you know that diet soda was initially created for people with diabetes? Launched in 1952, No-Cal took the spot of the first diet soda targeted at diabetics and, later on, at those who are trying to lose weight.

Its weight loss claims have stayed in consumers’ minds up to this day. It may be the reason why you’re debating whether to drink diet soda during your fasting period.

Intermittent fasting may help people lead healthier lives, however, to do so, they must strictly follow a few simple rules of intermittent fasting.

So, will a can of diet soda break your fast?

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Does Diet Soda Break a Fast?

Intermittent fasting is defined by time restricted eating and fasting periods during which you must abstain from intaking any calories. So, you’re probably thinking diet soda is safe to drink when intermittent fasting. You’re right. Sort of.

Technically speaking, a can of diet soda won’t break a fast as it contains zero calories and won’t affect your calorie intake.

Although, if you’re fasting to reap certain health-related benefits like improved gut health, keep in mind that diet soda may interfere with gut rest.

What Is Diet Soda?

Diet soda is a type of zero sugar soda that’s packed with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Some people drink it under the false presumption that it’s a healthy alternative to regular soda. Is it less harmful? Yes. But is it healthy? No.

Aspartame and stevia are the artificial sweeteners of choice when it comes to most diet sodas. Aspartame, for instance, is made up of two types of amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) and has been the center of several controversies. However, it has been approved to be safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Diet sodas also contain other additives. Let’s have a look at Diet Coke as an example. It’s based on carbonated water and packed with additives including caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, citric acid, and caffeine. While these ingredients won’t provide you with any nutritional benefits, they’re not likely to cause you any harm either.

Can Diet Soda Interfere With Your Weight Loss Efforts?

Regular soda is often switched out for diet soda when someone is trying to lose weight. It’s called ‘diet’ soda, after all. Even though it doesn’t contain any calories or sugar, diet soda is still not the best option if you’re focused on losing weight.

Diet soda is packed with artificial sweeteners that may increase sugar cravings and overall appetite. Research suggests that aspartame, one of the most widely used sweeteners in diet sodas, is more hunger-inducing than other additives for that sweet taste.

In other words, consuming artificial sweeteners may get in the way of weight loss by making it more difficult to abstain from food and, if you fail to abstain, may even result in weight gain.

Other Health Risks Associated With Diet Soda

Weight gain isn’t the only downside of diet soda. Regular consumption of diet drinks has been linked to several health issues.

Increased risk of heart disease

Research shows that diet soda may worsen your heart health. Daily consumption of more than two cans of diet soda increases the risk of cardiovascular events by 30%. Although, it remains unclear what exactly causes diet soda to damage the heart.

Some studies link artificial sweeteners with an increased risk of heart disease. This is concerning considering that artificial sweeteners are one of the key ingredients in diet soda.

Furthermore, weight gain and other conditions associated with diet soda can put a strain on your heart and may contribute to the development of certain heart diseases.

Increased risk for metabolic problems

As previously discussed, diet soda may counter certain health-related benefits that intermittent fasting brings. For instance, it can negatively affect metabolic health.

There’s scientific evidence that regular consumption of diet soda increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 36%. Metabolic syndrome, sometimes referred to as insulin resistance syndrome, is a group of conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, inability to control blood sugar, and high cholesterol. It’s considered to be a risk factor for numerous heart diseases.

What’s more, is that individuals who consume diet soda on a regular basis are 67% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Again, it’s important to note that type 2 diabetes may negatively affect heart health.

When it comes to intermittent fasting, it becomes clear that mixing these two can make it counterproductive as some of the health benefits provided by intermittent fasting will be canceled out by the risks of diet soda.

Increased risk for brain disease

Some studies show that diet sodas may put you at a higher risk for neurological disorders like dementia and may also increase the risk of having a stroke. To be more precise, a study published in the journal Stroke found that people who regularly drink diet soda may be three times more likely to develop dementia or suffer a stroke than those who didn’t consume diet drinks at all.

It’s important to note that this study did not report cause and effect. Future research is needed to determine whether artificial sweeteners (and diet sodas that contain them) negatively affect the brain.

In addition, some studies linked aspartame, one of the main sweeteners in diet soda, to mood disorders like depression.

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Increased risk for liver issues

It probably comes as no surprise that soda consumption does not contribute to a healthy liver. Research suggests that consuming soft drinks including regular sodas and diet sodas may increase the risk of developing fatty liver.

One of the possible intermittent fasting benefits is improved liver function and decreased liver enzyme levels. Diet soda may cancel out these benefits and even worsen your liver health.

Furthermore, the majority of health risks associated with diet sodas come from a commonly used artificial sweetener called aspartame. Some studies have shown that aspartame consumption can result in the accumulation of formaldehyde which may damage liver cells.

Does Diet Soda Have Any Health Benefits?

Diet soda does not provide any meaningful nutrients and, in turn, does not bring any health benefits. However, it may prove useful to individuals trying to cut back on sweetened beverages.

To put it simply, anyone who has a habit of consuming soft drinks can use diet soda to transition into a healthier lifestyle. Swapping out a soft drink for a can of diet soda will significantly reduce sugar intake.

Did you know that a can of soda contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar? By eliminating sugary drinks from your diet, you remove excess sugar intake and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

How to Reduce Diet Soda Consumption for Better Fasting Results

Diet soda may be the lesser of two evils but it’s still not the best option if you’re focused on improving your health. Instead of diet soda opt for these intermittent fasting safe drinks.

Coffee or tea can be a caffeinated alternative

As previously mentioned, diet soda contains caffeine which serves some people as an energy booster. If that’s your reason for drinking diet soda, consider switching to coffee or tea.

It’s important to note that you should stick with plain black coffee or tea (like green tea or ginger tea) without any additives. The main reason for this is that sugar, honey, milk, and other additives contain significant amounts of calories which will break a fast.

Black coffee or tea alone, however, won’t break a fast.

Furthermore, some studies show that caffeine can serve as a natural appetite suppressant which may assist in weight loss.

Both coffee and tea are rich in polyphenols which have been linked to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

Seltzer or carbonated water as a carbonated alternative

If you’re hooked on diet sodas because of that fizzy taste, you should consider carbonated water. Carbonated water, more commonly known as sparkling water,  is infused with CO2 which creates bubbles.

Most importantly, carbonated water doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners meaning it won’t break your fast. Moreover, unlike diet sodas that induce hunger, sparkling water may promote satiety by inducing a feeling of fullness.

Try natural foods to satisfy sweet cravings

Some people opt for diet soda because they crave something sweet.

Incorporate natural foods like fruit into your diet to satisfy that sweet tooth. Fruits are naturally sweet meaning you won’t consume added sugar which has been proven to negatively affect your overall health. Fruits are also packed with essential nutrients and dietary fiber which may prevent obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Keep in mind that you can only eat these natural foods during your eating window.

Drink plain water to stay hydrated

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that you can (and should) drink water during your fast. In fact, when you’re actively fasting, you should make a conscious effort to drink more water than usual since about 20% of water comes from food.

Water plays a key role in keeping your body up and running. It provides you with essential minerals and keeps your body hydrated.

Drinking water may also relieve hunger pangs when on an empty stomach. Additionally, it may help to maintain a healthy eating pattern and prevent overeating.

Although you can’t drink diet soda when intermittent fasting, a can of this sugar-free drink won’t harm you when moderately consumed. Make sure to keep your diet soda consumption in check with the help of DoFasting.

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Does Diet Soda Break a Fast: Final Thoughts

While diet soda technically won’t break your fast, it’s important to remember that not all calorie-free beverages are healthy. Artificial sweeteners are mainly responsible for the health risks associated with diet soda such as an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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