Is your coffee being replaced by soda as the beverage of choice to start the morning? For a lot of people the answer is yes. Instead of having a steaming cup of coffee–or in some cases, in addition to–more and more people are having diet soda. And it doesn’t end there.
A lot of diet soda drinkers down several sodas a day. Government surveys reveal that people who drink diet beverages often have more than three cans a day and some drink far more. At least 3% have at least four cans a day.Is diet soda the new addiction?
And if it is, what exactly is the addictive ingredient? Some may feel it’s caffeine, but many of these diehard soda drinkers drink the caffeine-free variety. Apparently, then, it’s something besides caffeine causing the cravings.
While diet soda isn’t as addictive as drugs like nicotine, some experts believe the rituals involved with drinking diet soda and getting the artificial sweet taste makes some people both psychologically and physically dependent on it–a lot like being dependent on cigarettes. And since these sodas do not contain pound-packing sugar like regular sodas, these people feel free to overindulge.Diet soda and your brain.
Many people who chain-drink diet soda may prefer the caffeine from a can of Diet Coke to a cup of coffee, but there’s more to it. A lot of soda drinkers alternate between coffee and diet cola throughout the day, sometimes downing a six-pack in a span of 24 hours. Some feel the cravings stem from a prior addiction to cigarettes and not caffeine. For example, one man trying to kick the smoking habit would drink diet soda to cover the aftertaste of cigarettes. After he quit smoking he kept chugging the diet drinks.
It’s not uncommon to trade one addiction for another. It’s known as “addiction swapping” and seems to come in to play for people who drink diet soda to lose weight and turn to the sweetness a diet drinks for comfort as they cut back other unhealthy foods. It’s a lot like how heroin addict will turn to OxyContin to get off heroin.
Diet soda cravings are powerful psychologically but they can have a physical hold on you as well. Research suggests that the aspartame in some diet sodas keeps people coming back for more because the artificial sweeteners don’t satisfy like the real thing.
For instance, one study showed that women who drank water that was alternately sweetened with Splenda and sugar really couldn’t tell the difference in taste but their brains could. MRI brain scans showed that even though both the sugar and the artificial alternative both highlighted the brain’s reward system, the sugar lit up the stage.
Martin P. Paulus, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego states, “Your senses tell you there’s something sweet that you’re tasting, but your brain tells you, ‘Actually, it’s not as much of a reward as I expected.’”
This may lead to soda drinkers constantly chasing a high that diet soda keeps just beyond their grasp. This teasing effect could possibly lead to dependence because artificial sweeteners have a positive reinforcing effect. That means addicts will keep chasing it like some chase other addictions like foods, drugs, and alcohol.
The effects of too much diet soda.
Whether someone is hooked or not, drinking too much diet soda is risky. In recent years diet soda consumption has been negatively associated with low bone mineral density in women, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Also, more and more research suggests that too much diet soda actually causes
Obviously, kicking any addiction is tough whether it be a serious addiction like narcotics and nicotine or one that doesn’t show any immediate negative consequences like diet soda. However, chances are in many cases the addict doesn’t realize there is a real addiction. Recognizing it for what it is, truly is the first step in getting the diet soda monkey off your back.