Is Diet Soda Bad for Your Liver? How It Might Be Just as Bad as Alcohol

Most soda drinks are high in sugar and calories per serving, which is just one of many reasons they really aren’t good for you.

Knowing this, many people turn to diet or “lite” sodas to reduce their sugar intake and lose weight. This may not be the best choice if you’re concerned about your long-term health.

Like alcohol, soda doesn’t fill you up the way food does. You’re much more likely to over-consume drinks because your body doesn’t let your brain know you’ve had enough. This could be bad for your heart, your gut, your teeth, and even your liver.

How is diet soda made?

Diet soda

Diet soda | naikon/iStock/Getty Images

Regular soda drinks are made up of a combination of ingredients that give it its familiar taste, color, and flavor. Classic Coke, for example, is a mixture of carbonated water, sugar (“high fructose corn syrup”), phosphoric acid, caffiene, natural flavors, and caramel coloring.

When manufacturers make a soda “diet,” they remove the sugar. But they have to put something back in to maintain the drink’s expected sweetness.

Diet sodas are sweetened using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. The most common artificial sweeteners used in modern diet drinks include:

  • Aspartame
  • Stevia
  • Cyclamates
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose.

There’s a lot of debate about whether or not artificial sweeteners are safe. But let’s compare the risks of regular vs. diet soda as a whole, what the research says about their effects on your liver, and the best soda alternatives for now.

Is diet soda healthier than regular soda?

Diet soda is free of sugar and calories, which might make it “seem” healthier than high-calorie, high-sugar soda drinks.

However, research has linked diet drinks to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Risks are technically lower for diet soda compared to regular soda, but they’re still there.

The most important point to make about soda and whether or not one type is better than the other is that soda is not nutritious. It does not provide any health benefits. Even if your soda doesn’t have calories, you’re not putting anything into your body that it’s going to appreciate.

Drinking soda every day is a lot like drinking alcohol. It adds things your body doesn’t need, and even though this might seem harmless, it can become harmful. Instead of providing your body with something that hydrates or nourishes you, you’re just dumping chemicals in.

“Diet” drinks are a great marketing tactic to lure in anyone who wants to lose weight or mind their sugar intake while still enjoying their favorite things. It’s not that you can never have soda. It’s that there’s really nothing “better” about it when you look closely enough.

Is diet soda bad for your liver?

Soda

Soda | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Studies have suggested soft drink consumption leads to an increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a type of liver disease you can develop even if you don’t overuse alcohol. But do diet sodas have the same effect?

It appears so. According to research, all sodas likely increase fatty liver disease risk by contributing to insulin resistance — even those containing artificial sweeteners.

Insulin resistance develops when the body no longer uses insulin properly. You still produce insulin, but the glucose in your blood often doesn’t make it to the cells where it’s needed. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, and can damage different parts of your body as well.

So basically, there’s no such thing as “healthy” soda. Diet soda is technically a slightly better alternative in some cases, but you’d still be better off finding a different go-to beverage — preferably a nonalcoholic one.

What to drink instead of soda

Whether you like soda for the taste, the convenience, or the carbonation (“fizz”), there are healthier — and equally delicious — alternatives you can enjoy.

  • Sparkling water
  • Flavor-infused water (not water “flavored” with sugar)
  • Unsweetened green and black teas
  • Unsweetened coffee (you can create your own latte by adding milk)

Try to stay away from excessive amounts of fruit and vegetable juice and sugar-sweetened tea and coffee drinks, energy drinks. These drinks may satisfy your taste buds and give you a sugar rush, but the extra calories and sweetness will add up — and not in a good way.