After the post "What Happens One Hour After Drinking a Can of Coke" went viral, it was only a natural next step for the former U.K. pharmacist to draft a new infographic that took on Diet Coke.
Niraj Naik, also known as the "Renegade Pharmacist," detailed the body's physiological response to the artificial sweeteners and other components in diet beverages, basing his info off of some scientific studies.
"[...] from my experience as a community pharmacist helping people to get off medications for metabolic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, I found if people drink diet sodas they still get the same problems as people who drink normal soda," Naik wrote in the post.
Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a physician in Philadelphia who started his practice devoted to weight loss in 2013, said he takes issue with the overall message of these infographics.
Take Naik's mention of how the sugars in Coke and artificial sugars in Diet Coke result in an insulin dump that "sends your body into fat storage mode."
Seltzer puts this into context.
"It's an energy balance issue," he told TheBlaze. "[Our bodies] are in a constant state of flux."
He went on to explain that when you eat or drink something, yes, it triggers the production of insulin, which allows sugars to enter cells for use or storage. It's if you don't use these excess sugars that they can then be converted and stored as fat.
"When you eat something you are going to store glucose ... but an hour later, you can release some of that," Seltzer said of when your blood sugar dips, triggering the release of sugars you might have just stored. "It all goes down to overall calorie balance."
As for the other studies and data linking diet sodas and artificial sweeteners to other health conditions, Seltzer said in most cases the findings are correlation, not causation.
Seltzer is a rare defense of artificial sweeteners at a time when many studies are calling them out.
"There’s no data — no good data — that says artificial sweeteners are bad for you if you use them as a means to be lean," Seltzer said.
The hardest data that Seltzer hits is that being overweight is most definitively tied to dying earlier compared to individuals who are a healthy weight.
If drinking Diet Coke or consuming other artificial sweeteners will help you lose pounds and achieve a healthy weight, Seltzer's all for it. In fact, he used to weight 240 pounds himself and switching to artificial sweeteners helped him reach a healthy weight.
"If you use aspartame as a means to be lean versus eating all natural stuff and weighing 400 pounds you’re gonna be better off if you use aspartame," he said.
Some studies though are contradictory to his advice. One published earlier this year that followed up with study participants three times over a nine-year timeframe, tracking diet soda intake, waist circumference, height and weight found daily diet soda drinkers had a 3.04 cm increase in waist circumference compared to 0.77 cm for non-soda drinkers.
Seltzer would argue though, as he did in a 2014 blog post citing a study that found diet soda drinkers were more likely to be obese, that "this does not mean that drinking diet soda causes weight gain."
"The 'Big Mac and Diet Coke' phenomenon, where people use consumption of diet sodas as cart blanche to eat whatever they want, is a possible explanation," he wrote. "Additionally, starting to drink diet soda is a common behavior for those who have begun gaining weight as a way to counteract it, but if the lifestyle that caused the gain in the first place is not addressed, the diet soda will be of little help."
As for artificial sweeteners triggering an urge for more sugars, as Naik's infographic points out, Seltzer doesn't deny this in his 2014 post. It's about knowing how you react to such beverages.
"For a man with a predisposition to obesity and diabetes, for example, who finds a diet soda calms the sweet tooth, diminishes cravings for Skittles, and allows him to maintain a healthy body weight, the benefits probably outweigh the risks," Seltzer wrote. "However, if diet soda leads to overeating, then the risks surely outweigh the benefits and you should find a way to cut diet soda out of your diet."
He told TheBlaze in the end a healthy weight is all about meeting your daily caloric balance goals — burning more than what you take in, if your goal is weight loss.
If that means drinking a diet soda instead of eating a piece of chocolate cake, Seltzer said drink away.
"Do what you need to do to be lean. Period. It's not difficult," he said.
If you're looking to give up your diet or regular soda drinking habits though, Naik offered these tips:
Look for stevia (a natural sweetener) versions of soft drinks if you really must drink a soft drink.
Drink plain mineral water with fresh lime or lemon juice or both with a dash of organic honey, if you prefer a sweeter taste, as a very healthy and hydrating drink.
Drink green tea if you want the effects of caffeine without the jitters. L-theanine in green tea is the antidote to caffeine’s negative effects on the nervous system and it also boosts ‘alpha waves in your brain’
Drink Kombucha or Kefir tea. They are both naturally fizzy and Kefir tea in particular can provide a dose of probiotics for promoting better digestion and health of your gut.
Learn to make or buy nutritious smoothies made out of green vegetables like spinach, low sugar fruits like blueberries and tasty ingredients like coconut butter that are full of essential nutrients and health promoting fatty acids. Looking for an easy recipe? Check out my alpha omega smoothie recipe here
Front page image via Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock.com.