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Diet Drinks: Helpful or Harmful to Kick the Sugar Habit?

Diet Drinks: Helpful or Harmful to Kick the Sugar Habit?

If you saw the recent 60 Minutes segment by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the dangers of sugar you might be scared off the sweet stuff for good.  It causes heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer and it makes super bad, super dense, super dangerous cholesterol particles.

The data is pretty strong on this.  Scientists even locked kids in a hospital, fed them sugar, and measured their blood every 30 minutes.  It didn’t take long for things to turn bad inside.

But if you are thinking that diet soft drinks or artificial or even natural sweeteners are the answer for getting off sugar, think again.  Diet drink consumption has increased 400 percent since 1960.  It may or may not cause cancer, but the evidence is mounting that it leads to weight gain rather than weight loss.

Those who consume diet drinks regularly have a 200 percent increased risk of weight gain, a 36 percent increased risk of pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, and a 67 percent increased risk of diabetes. A study of 400 people found that those who drank two diet sodas a day or more increased their waist size by five times.

Seems you can’t outsmart Mother Nature.  Tricking your brain into thinking you are getting something sweet plays dirty tricks on your metabolism.  Artificial sweeteners disrupt the normal hormonal and neurological signals that control hunger and satiety (feeling full).

A study of rats that were fed artificially sweetened food found that their metabolism slowed down and they were triggered to consume more calories and gain more weight than rats fed sugar-sweetened food.

In another alarming study, rats offered the choice of cocaine or artificial sweeteners always picked the artificial sweetener, even if the rats were previously programmed to be cocaine addicts.  The author of the study said that, “[t]he absolute preference for taste sweetness may lead to a re-ordering in the hierarchy of potentially addictive stimuli, with sweetened diets . . . taking precedence over cocaine and possibly other drugs of abuse. ”

The use of artificial sweeteners, as well as “food porn,” the sexy experience of sweet, fat, and salt in your mouth, alters your food preferences.  Your palate shifts from being able to enjoy fruits and vegetables and whole foods to liking only the sexy stuff.

My advice is to give up stevia, aspartame, sucralose, sugar alcohols like xylitol and malitol, and all of the other heavily used and marketed sweeteners unless you want to slow down your metabolism, gain weight, and become an addict.

Some may be worse than others like aspartame that is what we call an excitotoxin that can cause neurologic symptoms like brain fog, migraines or worse.  And some may just give you bad gas because they ferment in your gut, like the sugar alcohols (anything that ends in “ol” like xylitol).

Others like stevia, which comes from a South American plant, may be slightly better and could be enjoyed from time to time, they all keep us yearning for more and more – so our brains get confused, we eat more food and we get fatter.  There are ways to cut cravings by naturally balancing your blood sugar.

So if you want something sweet, enjoy the real thing from time to time.  But stay away from fake sugars or fake food or factory made science projects of any kind.

To learn more please see The Blood Sugar Solution. Get one book or get two and give one to someone you love – you might be saving their life. When you purchase the book from this link you will automatically receive access to the following special bonuses:

  • Special Report—Diabetes and Alzheimer’s: The Truth About “Type 3 Diabetes” and How You Can Avoid It
  • More Delicious Recipes: 15 Additional Ways to Make The Blood Sugar Solution as Tasty as It’s Healthy!
  • Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Nutrition Coaching – FREE for 30 days!
  • First 30 minutes of The Blood Sugar Solution Workshop DVD

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Do you drink diet soda?

How have they affected your health and your weight?

Do you use artificial sweeteners and will you continue to do so?

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below – but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

Comments (132)

  • What are your thoughts on sugar free gum? If the sugar alcohols are tolerated by the gut is it an acceptable tool for keeping the mouth occupied? Or do you think it messes with feedback loops and creates more hunger and cravings?

    • HI Molly,
      In moderation chewing (not chomping!) might have the potential to improve digestion.

      • Chewing gum almost always has Aspartame and maybe unlabeled Neotame as well. Especially toxic when absorbed through the buccal absorption (begins in the mouth & throat) process – much like the nitroglycerin sublingual tabs for heart patients. This absorption route bypasses all the usual digestive filters and sends Aspartame’s breakdown products of Methanol, DKP, Formic Acid, and others straight into the bloodstream. There is even a gland in the back of the throat that is directly connected to the brain. I purchase SteviaDent gum or Spry gum w/Xylitol, to use on rare occasions. If people only realized the added dangers they are subjecting their bodies to, by chewing gum, they would never do it.

        Please remember Aspartame’s effects are magnified on the developing neurological systems of children and fetuses. Nursing mothers can pass Aspartame on to a nursing infant in breastmilk. Our Stoddard’s POV Blog has all the information needed to make the decision to not chew commercial gums of any kind. A video on our site explains in a very informative, yet entertaining way. I admire the great work Dr. Hyman is doing to alert people to the dangers of Aspartame ingestion, thereby improving levels of health and fitness on the part of his patients. Thank you for allowing me to Comment.

        — Respectfully, Mary Nash Stoddard/author Deadly Deception Story of Aspartame (Toxicology Sourcebook, Odenwald Press 1998)

        • Thanks Mary, I was relieved to read your posting after seeing the response to Molly’s question. I am concerned that leaving out the whole truth or providing a partial response is damaging to another’s journey to optimal health.

  • Well, I don’t drink soda at all and have been trying to figure out WHICH sweetener to use. I am pretty much using nothing right now. I think there needs to be a distinction made about Stevia. I was using Truvia in my coffee and found that I was using more and more and more. A friend pointed this out to me and also that he had heard of some hormonal issues associated with Truvia and amazingly when I stopped using Truvia – the issues I had been having vanished! I think it is another case of one of the big companies making a frankenstein product out of something natural. I still shy away from Stevia and am currently looking for an alternative. In the meantime – at least in my coffee – plain old black (and now decaf) tastes pretty darn good!

  • Interesting info! I have been trying to cut the sugar habit for a while by first transitioning from white sugars to Stevia or rapadura sugar. I now rarely drink alcohol (where before I would have 1-2 drinks most nights a week) and I stopped using artificial sugars a long time ago. I still get daily cravings for sugar though. I find the thought of just keep all sugar out of my diet confronting but substituting one sugar for a ‘healthier’ sugar alternative doesn’t seem to be reducing my sugar cravings. It’s probably time to rethink my approach! Thanks for the info, Dr Hyman!

  • In the 22 years I have been a Dietitian I’ve seen diet drinks help many people lose weight and get off regular sodas. I have never seen anybody saying diet sugar harmed them in any way. Additionally I’ve seen diet sodas help diabetics be compliant with their diet, which we all know that very few diabetics are. In a way I feel that diet sodas and diet sugar has helped them feel like they are not missing too much in life for being diabetics. However, I do promote moderation in the consumption of diet sugar products, for instance I limit them to 1 diet soda per day if any.
    Well, those are my experiences.

    • Are you kidding me? You are a dietician and you are actually recommending diet sodas to diabetics???? That is pretty shocking.

      • What is your basis for being shocked? Do you actually know how diabetes (mellitus) works and how biochemistry is changed?

    • But they’re still diabetics. Our diet shouldn’t consist of things we must eat so we aren’t missing out, that’s what got them where they are in the first place.

      Let food be thy medicine, not artificial, processed junk that provides instant gratification.

      You may limit them (and they may not heed your warning) but why not help them reverse the damage their diet has done to them!?!

      The power of nutrition is far greater than anyone can understand. Some may get a glimpse while others live in denial but the fact remains, what we eat does play a role in our health.

    • We are the ‘court of last resort’ (since 1987) for many Diet Soda drinking diabetics whose blood sugars are controlled only w/medications. When they cease all use of diet drinks & Aspartame in their diets, their blood sugar levels return to normal after a few weeks. We offer this easy finger stick test for Diabetics on diet sodas: When blood sugar levels are normal, drink 2-3 Diet Sodas w/o stopping. Start to retest blood sugar levels 30-min. to 1 hr. later. Most find blood sugar levels are highly elevated by the Aspartame in their diet drinks in this informal testing. In Circulation mag., Journal of American Heart Assn., those in the peer-reviewed study (Framingham Scientific Study) Gained Weight equally on HFCS & Aspartame sweetened sodas. Many studies before and since have shown paradoxical weight gain on artificial sweeteners. When abstaining from Aspartame sweetened sodas, w/zero calories, Diabetics and their Doctors reported an astonishing loss of weight. We offer a more detailed explanation on our Stoddard’s POV Aspartame Blog. — In Health & Happiness, Mary Nash Stoddard/author Deadly Deception Story of Aspartame (Odenwald Press)

    • I was diagnosed type 2 diabetic by my doctor . I quit sugar, and cut out most carbs. Diet soda really helped me stop the sugar. I lost about 30 Lbs, went from 175 to 145. My diabetes is under control and looks like it is cured or at prediabetic levels now. Like many fad diets, people are trying to sell you something (memberships, books etc), so they make things sound so cut and dry, easy, simple, when i fact nothing is that simple. Diet soda helped me and helped many others. Depending on your situation, it may help or not. Correlation is not causation.

  • I drank diet sodas and used artificial sweeteners for years, all the while getting fatter and fatter. When I finally kicked the sugar habit, including all artificial sweeteners, and started eating whole, unprocessed foods, including liberal amounts of healthy fat, I lost weight naturally without effort. Fruits and vegetables taste wonderful now. Not only that, I no longer have headaches.

  • I origiinally gave up diet coke after learning they were linked to bone loss (any coke, not just diet). Then I began to learn about the sweetener issues related to weight gain. I have now lost all desire for drinking them. Decided to “treat” myself to one last week and poured it out. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I believe my taste buds have readjusted to real sugar as well as fruits and now the fake stuff tastes really yucky. Makes it very easy to stay clear of diet soda !

  • Long before the research regarding diet sodas, I noticed that when I drank one, I felt hungry afterwards and found myself looking for a snack. It didn’t take me long to decide they were not the best beverage to have and so switched to my beverage of choice: water. Diet drinks are not the answer.

    • I had the same experience Jane, I noticed that I would feel worse, shaky, minor headaches and an increased appetite after drinking diet sodas. I didn’t like the mood side effects off irritability either. I noticed how clearer and more centered I felt after switching to water.

  • Like those rats I am a diet soda addict. I started drinking diet soda in the 1970’s and still crave it. I have quit drinking it for years at a time only to drink just one and the next thing I know I’m drinking 2 liters or more a day. I drank my last diet soda in September and know that just one will start it all over again, but if I smell it then the cravings start all over again. I feel like an addict or alcholic only my drug of choice is diet soda.

  • Hi Carlos,
    After reading this article, how do you feel about diet drinks now? Even if the ‘patients’ aren’t complaining about the diet drink doing harm, do YOU feel the research gives warrant to not recommending that approach any longer for patients?

  • I gave up all sugars (including processed foods so I don’t get them there either) and chemical sweeteners and just use Stevia in my decaffinated tea (no carbonation, no sodas). I have gotten over the sugar cravings and have lost 65lbs and conquered my metabolic syndrome. I believe that it’s not really necessary to get rid of Stevia.

  • I am a type 2 diabetic and I drink about 4 diet drinks a week I find that I miss the carbonation more than the sweetness of the drink, is my body telling me something, I also use about 2 teaspoons of Stevia every morning in my coffee this is an item, coffee and stevia I am trying to detox from. I had a kidney transplant in July of 2011 had been on dialysis for about 3 years and my body at the time was pretty unhealthy. In Oct. 2011 I was released from clinical care and given permission to excersise and start my nutrition back. I was on 14 medications and 2 insulins a day. I went on internet and started researching because I knew I did not want to live the rest of my life taking meds and shooting insulin, received very little direction from traditional medicine and nutritionist. This all was happening before I discovered Dr Hymans book in early 2012. I changed my diet to chicken, fish, low and slow carbs fresh veggies. In October I was 29.7 BF and 191 lbs. today I am 20.9 BF and 176 lbs I am off of 7 medications and both insulins, my last A1C was 5.5 and my endocrinologist was amazed.When I found Dr Hymans book it thrilled me to know I was on the right path and it gives me a resource on what my body is telling me. I am excited about starting the 12 week online course so that I can fine tune my body into the healthy body that I deserve. I still have a ways to go on my BF and weight but every day I am encouraged by reading the Blood Sugar Solution it motivates me and gives me hope

  • About a decade ago I used to drink several soft drinks every day, usually real cokes and sugar-filled iced tea. I got kind of heavy and I switched to diet soft drinks and tea with splenda (now stevia). I lost several pounds. I don’t drink diet drinks every day. I used to drink sugar-laden drinks every day.

    I do have the urge to eat “real” sweets now. It’s not overwhelming and I’m usually able to fight it.

    Anyway, I’m 18 pounds down from my heaviest weight. I credit swapping sugar drinks with diet drinks for part of this weight loss. I suppose I could have swapped sugar drinks for just water and had the same result, but I sometimes want a caffeine jolt in the morning.

  • I agree with the previous comments that diet drinks can be helpful in giving up sugar. I never did drink regular sodas but I’ve been a great drinker of diet soda. I gave it up a few years ago. Mostly. I would allow myself a 16-oz bottle at work once a week but recently have felt so awful afterward I decided to give that up as well. I still drink it occasionally when I eat out but even that is losing it’s appeal so it’s been a gradual weaning. I indulge in a teaspoon of sugar now and then with chai or coffee milk on the grounds that it’s probably less bad than chemical sweetener. It also tastes better. I’m not convinced I’ll die of the effects of either one but consuming chemical sweeteners in great quantities can’t be any better for a body than great amounts of sugar.

  • I have been addicted to sugar-free drinks for years. I am 78 years old now and lack the energy I would like to have. My son quit all drinks with caffeine in them, and he says he feels much better and has more energy. I have tried to quit drinking diet coke (used to drink diet Dr Pepper) but it is extremely difficult. I know how addictive these drinks are. Something that is THAT ADDICTIVE couldn’t be that good for us. I plan on juicing more fresh, organic foods in my new juicer. I think that when my body gets that GOOD stuff I will be able to break the addition.

  • My kids had been bugging me about the amount of diet soda I’d been consuming, so as a New Years resolution, & as an experiment, I gave up all soda (diet or sugared) and all sugar, and all artificial sweeteners on WEEKDAYS, and allowed it on Saturdays & Sundays. At first, I had sugar cravings & soda cravings….but I’d just tell myself…hey on Saturday I can have it all! The funny thing is, after doing this since Jan. 1st, when the weekends arrive, I just don’t really crave it anymore, and my only happy indulgence is on Saturday when we go to Kilwin’s for my small piece of dark chocolate caramel with sea salt on top…..Yum! I’ve only lost 4 pounds, but, boy, do I feel better !!! I dont know if I feel so much better because of no diet soda, or because i’m eating less sugar, but I feel alot better, and I am sleeping much better!

    • Nancy, I like your idea of giving up on weekdays. I am going to follow your example.

    • It’s amazing to me how the diet soda stuns your taste buds. I can only say after giving up diet soda…after about a week water started tasting so much better. I have not drank anything but diet soda since 1972… and I could not stand the taste of water. But, today Water is Good!!! Thanks for the great Blood Sugar Solution program. I started the program on 9 April 2012 and I have lost 12 pounds so far. And I plan on reaching my goal!

      Visit blog:

    • Thank you for sharing your approach. Sometimes people need a gradual approach in the beginning of making a change. The idea of allowing it on weekends only and then finding that you didn’t have the craving may be a good best practice for others to follow.

  • Every year the month of January I conduct a sugar challenge at the spa I work at. I allow stevia and trivia if they need a substitute. Alcohol was allowed but no sodas of any kind. The average weight loss for the women was 5-7 pounds and the guys 8-12. Everyone lost their sugar cravings, felt better and had more energy. I do this every year to prove to people how addicting sugar is and if you can stay away from it how much better you feel.

    • I am a Type 2 diabetic and probably 80 pounds over my ideal weight. Iambeginning Dr. Hyman’s 6 week program. I drink1-2 cans of diet soda per day. What should I drink instead. Real juices like Orange, Apple, Cranberry all have a lot of sugar inthem. Do I switch to water only. What about Crystal Light iced tea?
      Thank you, Charles

  • I’ve been reading your book and eating from your recipes. I love the guidance, thank you. I’ve never really enjoyed soda, artificial sweeteners or diet soda as I prefer just water to drink. The other stuff simply feels bad in my body. I don’t eat gluten or dairy yet I still am having trouble with fat around my middle, upper arms and thighs. This is new as of age 38; I’m now 42. I’m most comfortable between 130 lbs and 135 lbs, but I am stuck at 140 (5’6″). Is it expected that metabolism naturally slows down, or can it be reset by diet and exercise?

  • I stopped drinking soda of any kind years ago just because they have never really held any appeal for me. I just think that most everyone would be way better off if they did not eat or drink anything that is as highly processed as sodas are. I will only occasionally have a diet soda if it is something like Sprite Zero or diet ginger ale. I have some regular soda in my frige now for treating low blood sugar. My drink of choice is water.

  • I can quite happily do without diet soda (I put fresh lemon or lime in sparkling mineral water instead) but what about in baking? I don’t want to use sugar but am not sure of the best alternative to use in my low carb baking. Any advice?

    • Hi Sue,

      Try real fruit, some honey or spices such as cinnamon which actually enhance the sweetness in baking.

  • I have been following Dr. Hyman’s plan now for a week and have seen great results already. Sodas are very addicting for me. While I no longer have sugar cravings, I found that driving by a local cafe where I regularly sat for a soda or sweet tea, I felt a strong urge to stop. Not for the socializing, but for the sugary draw of a soda or drink. I also found, that with diet sodas, within a few days of consuming one or two a day, I had much more back and joint pain. Only when my doctor questioned my consumption of diet soda containing aspertame, did I realize that was what was causing my pain. When I stopped, the pain subsided within two days. Aspertame is powerful stuff. I am sure it is the cause of many problems that people are having, not to mention what it does to children. Trying to find a substitute for our bad habits is far worse than giving up the bad habit entirely. It is hard to do. We are subjected to the food propaganda every where we turn. In my opinion, diet soda is far worse than the regular soda. Both are harmful, give it all up. Water is better and cheaper.

  • I am in the process of kicking the habbit of diet coke and other artificial sweeteners. I can not believe how difficult it is. I quit smoking 14 years ago and this feels much more difficult. Thank you for your work as it is what influenced me to tackle this addiction. I drank an average of 64 ounces of diet soda a day! Wish me luck.

  • I gave up diet sodas several years ago after I decided that too much aspartame was making me feel terrible–I will still not consume anything with that chemical in it. I can’t say that it causes cancer, but I do know 2 people who had brain tumors (they were in their 40’s) and were major diet soda addicts, so I am wary. However, I watched the Sanjay Gupta special “The Last Heart Attack” last August with my husband, who has very high cholesterol, and we started the Esselstyn diet immediately. We do use small amounts of stevia, mostly in hot tea, and have still lost any desire for sodas, cake, cookies, etc. In 6 months, he has lost 30 lbs and I’ve lost 28, with no feelings of deprivation. We feel great and have more energy–with no plans to give up the diet. The only hassle is eating out—no one serves vegan food without added oils, so we’ve had to really minimize restaurant eating. We’ve just had to learn to ignore the taunts of our friends, who see the results, but think we are insane, nonetheless. If you can lose weight and keep it off on other diets, good for you, but this is the only one we’ve ever been on where the weight stays off because you feel satisfied and full without craving food that is bad for you.

    • We switched to all sugar free products about five years ago. We believed we were doing the right thing by eliminating sugar and replacing it with aspartame. My husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2010- Stage IV- and I gained 80 pounds. Some health benefit that was! We don’t use it anymore, but it is too late to undo all of the damage. I bought an auger-style juicer and we juice fresh organic fruit and veggies. We also drink green tea and distilled water. There is no reason to ever drink a soda as you have found. I also just finished a book entitled Exitotoxins by Dr. Russel Blaylock. I wish I had known about all of that earlier. My husband might not have brain, spine, and lymph cancer if we had received accurate information about the dangers of certain products. My father also has a friend who drank 6-8 diet sodas a day to keep his weight down. He has had multiple strokes and is incompacitated. After reading Dr. Blaylock’s book, I believe aspartame to be the culprit along with MSG. That being said- I find it difficult to find food without either. I recently saw Dr. Esselstyn on the same program with Dr. Blaylock and T. Colin Campbell. I am going to try the same diet you are on. Thanks for posting. It gives me a little hope. 🙂

  • I began drinking diet soda in my mid 30s, and I lost weight. I don’t know if I lost weight because I gave up sugar drinks or if it was because I was running 3 miles a day 5 days a week. As I got older and sat behind a computer longer hours every day, I seemed to crave diet cokes and drank more diet drinks to give more energy. Drinking more diet drinks made hungry. Anyway, I gained the weight back that I lost.

    Last year, I gave up diet drinks and lost 17 pounds without dieting or exercising more than 3 days a week. I feel better, not bloated, and my blood sugar seems to be more stable. When I want a diet drink, I drink iced tea with sugar, and I don’t crave tea. When I used to drink sweet tea with Sweet n Low, I wanted tea almost non stop throughout the day.

  • I have been on a low carb diet for a few years. Once i cut out regular sugar and high glycemic carbs i naturally lost my sugar craving. But i do have an occasional diet soda without any ill effects whatsoever

    If the studies you are quoting did not eliminate all sugar from the diet, they are seriously flawed. Many people who drink diet soda are already overweight and have eating issues. They defer to diet sodas in hopes of losing weight, but this is a backward approach.

    Deal with the sugar/carb issue first, then you can have small amounts of artificial sweetener without ill effects. Or at the very least, you will be in a position to judge how the artificial sweetener affects you.

  • Carlos said: “I have never seen anybody saying diet sugar harmed them in any way.” I am frankly amazed. I have only had Splenda 3 times, each by accident, but i had such a severe reaction to it that i ended up in ER the third exposure. Aspartame, as well, has an extreme reaction for me (migraines). When i’ve encouraged other people who use artificial sweeteners to give them up, they often lose the migraine headaches as well.

    I do use stevia. Mostly i use it in a morning tea. I had read that even artificial sweeteners can contribute to weight gain, so i’ve wondered if i should give this up, too. The fact is i have such a sweet tooth that it is hard for me to conceive of giving up all sweets. In fact, if i should go that route, i’d probably have to give up fruit as well, at least for a time to try to wean myself from the sweet desire.

  • Interesting studies and comments. I am 68 and keeping diabetes at bay with a healthy lifesyle which includes informed nutrition. Will try your challenge. God idea. I have the Sugar Solution book, which I ordered after being diagnosed with D2. After a while, although I practiced your suggestions then, I have slipped back into some “old habits” re: sugar substitutes. I have been using liquid Stevia in herbal tisanes, thinking it was not an excitotoxin, and feel it is far superior to Aspartane. (Would nt allow that toxin in my brain!) Spenda is an sugar substitute I use in baking, as I still like holiday treats, but do keep them limited to occassional treats. I have not used cane sugar for several years. I am aware of many hidden sugars , as I vigilantly read labels.

    About normalizing my my food dynamic- I would like to see how I do or do not improve the balance between sweets and other more nutritious foods. I still battle weight issues. So far, I have not been noticing a craving for sweets over veggies. I love veggies. However, It would be interesting to see if that balance improves even more with the elimination of Stevia and Splenda. I usually eat only organic, avoid the middle aisles of the market, and do NOT eat processed foods. So far, I have been able to avoid any meds for D2. Lately, I have been “craving” protien, as in dense protien of chicken and turkey, as I have been red meat free for about 10 years. I do take B Complex to offset the lack of it in my semiveggan life, and I do consume eggs from my own free-range chickens, as well as grow my own organic veggies. Thanks for the info. Does anyone else share my experience?

  • Diet drinks are best used as a stepping stone, kind of like nicotine gum or nicotine patches work for smokers. The goal should be to move from sugary drinks to diet drinks to natural sugar free drinks like water, tea, etc. over the course of time. in general, people don’t drink enough water anyway, so that’s really what should be substituted most of the time. The occasional diet soda is fine, but anyone who is drinking at least one per day probably does have to fight food cravings a bit more.

  • I drink diet soda seldom, but I do think the sugar has affected my health and weight far more than I used to admit. As of late, I go on binges where I meticulously scrutinize my sugar consumption and limit or exclude all together. Essentially, I go on the “wagon”.

    As a result, something amazing happens and it’s all good. One significant change is that all my foods start to taste AMAZING and foods that I might have added sweeteners to in order to make more palatable start to taste fantastic in their natural state. For example, a squash cooked with no olive oil and then sprinkled with some sunflower seeds, rather than say brown sugar is awesome! Another thing is that my teeth look and feel great. And most importantly, my mood is improved, which in turn helps me stay strong and not crave junk. The hardest part is not relapsing because sugar is everywhere! For some, I think it’s responsible for a whole host of issues. Regardless, I think we consume far too much sugar. More power to the folks who can manage their consumption in moderation, because I would say most can’t.

    The only artificial sweeteners I use is for coffee/tea, with stevia being the primary source. Other than that, no…..with the exception of some processed foods that I might consume from time to time. I think the verdict has been out on artificial sweeteners, but this article certainly continues to make me think that they most likely are not good. The calories might be low, but the affect on the mind and body sound like the same as processed sugar.

  • I would like to thank Dr.Hyman for this and many other articles that give a true representation of sugar,HGCS and grains. Almost a year ago I eliminated soda and sweeteners of any kind from my diet and shortly after that grains,dairy and legumes as well. In May of 2011 I had a really abnormal CT scan result. My entire intestine was inflamed,infected and filled with fluid with no help from the many doctors I went to for answers. For 60 days my diet was meat,vegetables and very small portions of fruit and nuts. In July
    of that same year at the age of 33 I had a pre cancer polyp removed from my intestine but after two solid months of healthy sugar free eating I reversed the other issues and I was healing far above the expectations of every doctor I had seen previously. I now know I am gluten intolerant and
    wheat allergic.
    Well 65 pounds of weight loss,lowered blood pressure and blood sugar levels are a testament of not having sugar in the diet and what it can do in the healthb

    of someone like me. I celebrated my 34th birthday yesterday,healthy. Did I have cake? Yes. It was a almond flour carrot cake sweetened with honey and it was delicious.

    It really would have helped me when my issues started to fond a healthcare professional that was willing to say some of the things Dr.Hyman is sharing now. If I can help someone who feels hopeless like I did to know that it is worth trying I hope I can. I may help save someone’s quality of life or even their very life. Thank you again Dr.Hyman for all of the scientifically sound information and the courage to fight for health and functional medicine.

  • Soda drinkers are like drug addicts. They are in such denial about the harmful effects of soda. It doesnt matter if it’s diet or not. It took me 10 years to break the habit and switch to water for good.

    I have a friend with several health issues and an auto immune disease yet she refuses to give up diet soda even though she knows its bad. She says every time she tries to stop the withdrawal headaches are unbearable and she gives in. I gave her buffered C, Magnesium and Green tea to help the withdrawal symptoms and so she can give it up. She refuses to drink the green tea because all teas except for herbal are against her religion. I tried to convince her that green tea isn’t going to hurt her and its only for a week. Plus the health benefits green tea out weigh the harmful effects of diet soda…yet she still won’t do it.

    Another friend with Parkinsons…..she won’t even try to give it up.

    They are so addicted and in such denial…its sad.

  • This may be too long winded, but it is all true. For over 30 years I drank huge amounts of diet coke. My guess is over a gallon per day. I also ate incredible amounts of food. It was not uncommon for me to eat 6-8 eggs for breakfast. I was a competitive athlete and burned all of those calories off in six or more hours of heavy exercise per day. My body broke down finally and I had 10 knee surgeries and finally both knees replaced plus both hips replaced. I cut down on my food input, but continued to drink the diet coke and slowly gained pounds and tried every diet to keep control of my weight.

    I’m a muscular six foot three man who had a lean 168 pound body. My weight went to 200 and then 210 all of the way up to 270. I started to get a weird pain on my right side about one hour every night after I went to bed. This got worse and worse until I couldn’t sleep and went to my family practitioner. She is a very good doctor who will stop at nothing to help me find out what is wrong. I had test after test including CT scans, ultra sound, blood tests and MRI’s, also went to many specialists. They could find nothing wrong. I suffered from kidney stones since I was 22 years old and know what pain is. Using a kidney stone at 10 on the scale of 10 the pain I had every night was a 6-7. Much too painful to ignore, but not unbearable. I just learned to live with it. If I slept on my right side I could sleep for 2-3 hours if I slept on my left side maybe 1 hour.

    This went on for 5 years. Finally I tried to find the problem again with my doctor, because it was getting worse. We went through all the tests again including endoscopy and colonoscopy. Ct’s, MRI’s, ultra sound, urologists and then finally a surgeon. My doctor referred me to a young very good micro surgeon in our area for exploratory surgery. The doctor reviewed my case and said she didn’t think the surgery was going to find anything and recommended against surgery. I seemed to have no other option, but to live with this terrible pain.

    I have been a real student of health all my life and have read many books over the years on health. I am actually in the health and fitness business. I decided for different reasons to give up caffeine. So I gave up diet coke cold turkey. No more 1 gallon of more per day. I went cold turkey. The day after I gave up diet coke my pain went away. No more pain and I promise you I was not smart enough to figure the connection. I didn’t give up diet coke to get rid of the pain and it took me days to figure the connection. Just to see if there was really a connection I started to drink diet coke again, but less for a few days and the pain came back so I stopped drinking diet coke and haven’t for 5 years and I never had the pain. It wasn’t the caffeine, because I for the last 3 years drank diet tea with lots of artificial sweeteners to the extreme and had no pain. After reading the Blood Sugar Solution I have cut artificial sweeteners of all kinds from my diet. I feel less hungry and have started on the diet. It has only been a week so I don’t have much to report, but I am eating better and am less hungry so I eat less. My starting weight is 280 I’ll try to keep you all informed as to my experience.

    I’m sorry for the long post, but like I said it is true. If you think I have a small tolerance for pain you are wrong I had both my knees replaced at once and drove in two weeks. I have lived with pain and don’t want anymore again. By the way I believe the pain in my side was from the gas in my stomach caused by the carbonation that produced gas along with the artificial sweeteners in diet coke. That is my theory not the doctors, but I believe I’m right. When I slept on my side the gas was concentrated and expanded my stomach. When I stood or sat up the pain would go away so I slept sitting down. I am presently 69years old and need to get as healthy as possible so I don’t leave my beautiful wife alone.



  • I haven’t eaten sugar or refined carbs in three years. I eat fruit, such as a sliced apple, grapefruit, strawberries and banannas for desert or snacks. I drink one to two coke zeros a week. I have never experienced any ill effects and do not crave sugar, refined carbs, pizza, etc. at all (my wife does not like diet soda). I’m inclined to think that the studies are not controlled enough to conclude that diet sodas are not healthy and lead to weight gain. What are the replicable, controlled studies that lead to the above conclusions/advice?

    Also, if drug addicts preferred artificial sweetners to their drug of choice, we wouldn’t be experiencing a drug epidemic. I don’t think the above cited study applies to humans.

    • @Jim, you should consider giving up your soda of any kind simply for the amount of chemicals in it alone. There is nothing in water and it should be all that we need to quench our thirst. There is absolutely nothing real in soda so why even consume the nasty stuff. I’m totally positive that you would feel so much better without soda and all the harming chemicals in it, let alone the sweetener. All soda’s should carry a warning label on them exactly the same as cigarette!! Both are hazardous to your health!

  • I’ve more than one co-worker who gave up the artificial sweetners and told me their joint pains went away. As a child I coulnd’t get enough sweets, as an adult, I don’t have that desire.

  • Interesting article. I drank diet Pepsi for many years. My son educated me about the dangers of aspartame. 6 months ago I stopped drinking diet sodas. Yes, I am obese and have been trying to take off some weight. I changed to agave syrup, use it on my oatmeal. I did not lose weight by giving up artificial sweeteners. I have noticed the extreme craving for sweets an hour or so after eating sweet foods. I rarely eat sweets and especially now that I know eating sweets makes me crave more sweets. I think it was more difficult giving up caffeine that was in the soda.

    Highly doubt a human being would seek an artificial sweetner over cocaine, if they had an addiction. Humans aren’t rats. I noted a typo: don’t think that drinking soda could increase waist size by 5 times! Most likely you intended to say 5″.

    The public is constantly being bombarded by studies that “prove” certain foods to be the culprit in obesity and poor health. Frankly, each of us needs to educate ourselves to become more healthy and go by our own results. I am a retired R.N. and even the doctors and dieticians caring for us don’t seem to be on the cutting edge of knowledge about nutrition and how to lose weight and in fact they often recommend plans that are destined for failure. People who are massively obese will not be able to lose weight with their direction and in fact very FEW patients will ever lose weight and continue to gain. That’s what I observed after over 30 years of being a nurse. As a matter of fact, many health care workers are obese and unhealthy themselves.

    Eating foods with a low glycemic index seems to be a promising way of taking off weight Then I recently discovered that wheat has been genetically altered. Even whole grains have a high glycemic index. Eating a “healthy” slice of bread is equivilant to eating a candy bar in the way our body releases insulin. So eating whole grains can even lead to weight gain. A new book called “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis has just been published, explaining this. Just as tobacco companies secretly modified the tabacco plant to be more potent, thus more addictive, our food chain has been modified and it wasn’t to make us healthier. Why is it that European countries have banned genetically modified foods, yet many Americans ignorantly eat whatever is placed in front, never questioning the safety?

    Basically we are still “cavemen”. If we eat basic foods, like fruits, veggies, low glycemic grains, healthy fats and proteins, limit ourselves to serving sizes, and do the exercise that our bodies require, we will lose our excess weight. Eating “real food” and not artificial or processed foods to me is the most promising technique in regaining health.

    Just as our staple starch, wheat, has been genetically altered, so have been many other foods we eat. Basically we are the guinea pigs of companies like Monsanto. Our FDA believes that genetically altered foods offer no danger to us. No scientific experiments have been conducted and our population is getting more obese and unhealthy.

    In my journey to get healthy, I have thus learned that for me, I will eat organic foods, stick to serving sizes, exercise and pay attention to the nutritional values of the foods I eat. Diet sodas and sweets will only be eaten infrequently. I will continue to investigate and educate myself.

  • I use stevia and erythritol. I am not overweight. I have read that erythritol is the only sugar alcohol that doesn’t cause gas and bloating because it is absorbed in the small intestine. It seems like these two sweeteners are the only good ones to use because of safety and lack of side effects???

  • I hate the taste of artificial sweetener so I never drank the diet sodas. I stopped using sugar in my coffee and replaced it with Stevia a few years ago (I even bake with it). I don’t eat things made with white flour or white rice if I can avoid it. I eat more fruits and vegetables and I reduced the amount of meat I eat. I do get lots of exercise by walking my dog twice a day every day rain or shine. All that said I have LOST weight and feel much better than I did when I drank regular sugared sodas and coffee with sugar in it. Now if I have something with sugar in it I get a bad headache so I don’t crave it at all. Instead I have more energy and I can keep up with my very high energy dog. It is all in what you believe and knowing what is going into your body.

  • I previously followed Dr Hyman’s Ultrametabolism diet for several years and stayed VERY trim and felt great. However, i did have one cup of coffee a day with stevia. I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit in the past year and aging 5 lbs and can’t seem to loose it. I’ve also slipped into drink in a few diet sodas a week. Just last night I wondered if the sodas were part of the culprit of the weight gain — so after reading the article, I’m getting back on track to following the healthy guidelines. (Still not ready to give up my glass of red wine a few times a week).

    I’d like to say in addition to weight management, I believe following Dr Hyman’s type diet has so many other benefits. Even moods, plenty of energy, peaceful sleep and very little to no illness.

  • I had been on diets all my life, since age 4, and tried just about everything. The yo-yo syndrome was part of my life. Once for about a year, I gave up caffeine, sugar, wheat and alcohol and felt great while losing weight, but just couldn’t sustain it. Then I started having worsening skin eruptions, rashes and sinus issues.

    Finally a client referred me to her holistic medicine doctor who specializes in food allergies. Bingo! Gluten, corn sugar and cane sugar intolerances. Within weeks of abstaining from all the trigger foods, I was dropping weight effortlessly, had more energy and generally felt great. I had to stop using the artificial sweeteners too because they are either sugar derivatives or are mixed with sugar derivatives. No more diet drinks, which I had been drinking since my teen years (I’m now well into middle age). I noted one of the comments above made reference to brain tumors — I had one of those too in recent years. Could it be from over 40 years of drinking diet sodas? I still have to use conscious discipline about intake, and yet it’s quite easy to do so. I took off 25 pounds over two years, and it’s been about four years now. Very sustainable.

    With all the information now about the bad effects of diet drinks because of the sweeteners and phosphorus, I’ve tried to convince my husband to give them up. However, he’s given up so many other things in recent years for health and weight reasons, he wants to hang onto the diet drinks. I now use honey and stevia when I want something sweet. I think there is an additive factor related to the sweetness, because I frequently seem to want something sweet after a meal.

  • I never used to drink diet soda. I didn’t like the taste. I enjoyed full strength coke. However, by age fifty, I yo-yoed my way up to 370 lbs. I went on the hCG diet. Most proponents of this diet say to stay away from diet sodas. After my first round, during which I lost 45 lbs in 30 days, I decided to to start drinking diet soda. I didn’t get any of the brain fog people talk about with diet soda. I continued to do so through four subsequent rounds of hCG. I often drink five or six artificially sweetened sodas or energy drinks in a day. In 18 months and 18 days, I was down to 197 lbs, a loss of 173 lbs. I am very active and usually have a diet Mountain Dew or a diet energy drink during my workout exercise. If I’m playing sports, like hockey (ice or ball) I drink plain water or water mixed with a stevia sweetened electrolyte powder (I have/had? a heart problem so I want to keep my potassium up). When I cook, I sweeten with stevia. I avoid refined wheat, potatoes and white rice. I don’t have a real craving for sugar anymore. I don’t care to put the weight back on. I’m enjoying my active life with my wife and kids (we have nine). Also, at the ice rink, being able to keep up with guys half my age is very satisfying. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  • Thank you for this article. I feel like I picked up a key piece of info for myself in “The use of artificial sweeteners, as well as “food porn,” the sexy experience of sweet, fat, and salt in your mouth, alters your food preferences. Your palate shifts from being able to enjoy fruits and vegetables and whole foods to liking only the sexy stuff.”

    I’ve not drunk soft drinks not eaten lots of sugar in years and I eliminated almost all sugar from what I eat over a year ago, but I had been eating a little Clemmy’s ice cream, sweetened w/Xylitol, and I eat a couple of squares of organic super dark chocolate pretty much every day. So sweet hasn’t been too much of a problem, though cutting it out hasn’t helped much in terms of diabesity, but fat and salty snacks, like tortilla chips, which are hard to avoid when we eat out a couple of times a week, because we live in Mexico! I do love fruits, vegetables and fresh, whole foods, but maybe even the relatively small amount of chips and perhaps some other fats need to be reduced to avoid this “food porn” experience.

  • I gave up diet soda a long time ago and have never missed it. However, I started using stevia several years ago and thought I was being all “clean and natural”. What I found was that I gradually became a stevia addict! And, I’ve gained about 25 pounds over the past few years. I love iced tea with stevia. Instead of drinking one a day in the summer however, I became a year-round drinker, adding more and more stevia until I was adding two packets to one iced tea and drinking it all day long! That’s like several teaspoons worth of sweet in each one! Yes, it does create a desire for more and more sugar, and less of a desire for veggies and other healthy foods. I’m now working at weaning myself off, although I do have days of slipping – it’s as much of an addiction as sugar. I may have to give up by beloved iced tea altogether, except for a once in a while treat. There is just no fooling Mother Nature!

  • I’m so stuck on calories in, calories out, that is why I turned to diet sodas to start with. I have never noticed any ill affects of drinking diet soda, but I keep hearing how bad it is for me and how it causes sugar cravings/weight gain. I do love sweets, but try to eat in moderation. I am 45 years old and weigh about 130 lbs. I work hard to keep the weight off. I exercise 30 min. every day and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, but can’t seem to stay away from sweets. I have gained some weight over the past year, but I think some of that is my age and my metabolism slowing. I use the sugar free coffee syrup in my coffee every day and I don’t think I can give this guilty pleasure up.

    My question is: Is it better health wise to just consume regular sugar in moderation vs. consuming sugar substitutes?
    I think it is unrealistic to expect people to totally give up sugar in all forms.

    • Ladonna,
      The old “My metabolism is slowing down” is another myth that was started many years ago. Metabolism is a process of converting fats and sugar into energy. If you had a low metabolism causing you to burn fewer calories your body temp would drop. At this point you are essentially dying. This rarely happens…………….

      What does happen is INSULIN RESISTANCE. Your body protects itself against high blood sugar levels with INSULIN. As you continually BOMBARD your body with sugar and carbohydrates your pancreas pumps out insulin so your cells can use this sugar for energy. Insulin basically stimulates the cells through the cell’s insulin receptors to make the cell open up and absorb the blood sugar.

      Over time and continuous ABUSE of insulin (from constantly eating sweets), your cell’s insulin receptors become burned out and quit responding to the insulin. Or, they are still there, but become less responsive. When this happens the pancreas has to produce more insulin. This is your body’s attempt to FORCE the blood sugar out of the blood stream. Otherwise the sugar damages EVERYTHING including your eye sight. This is where weight gain occurs. Because the cells like your muscle cells are NOT responding to the insulin the liver converts this excess sugar to triglycerides and finally the fat cells absorb all of it as FAT.

      This results in CRAVINGS because your muscle cells are STARVING! All the blood sugar you had just got converted and stored as fat essentially bypassing the ENERGY cycle needed to keep all your bodily functions going. The more sugar you eat to satisfy this craving the worse the craving gets (snowball effect).

      Eventually, your body hits a wall and can no longer sustain this insanity and Type-2 sets in. This is due to many factors. On e is muscle loss. As you continue to feed the fat cells with elevated insulin levels, your muscles STARVE for energy and shrink. The more this happens the more insulin resistant you become. You start replacing muscle with fat at this point. You may even trick yourself into thinking you are losing weight because fat weighs less than muscle. In reality, you are replacing muscle with fat.

      At this point you either start gaining weight like crazy or you become one of those people who eat nothing but salads trying to maintain weight by eating 500 calories a day or less.

      The only way to get past this is to quit eating starches and sugars. It is VERY difficult! A low carb/high protein diet is extremely BLAND and does nothing to satisfy your taste buds. Within 2 weeks you will feel so bad that you will question your sanity. Then one day the cravings will be gone and you won’t even want anything sweet. I know that’s hard to believe.

      That doesn’t mean you will lose weight anytime soon. It takes a LONG time to reverse insulin resistance. Long after you quit eating carbs your pancreas will continue to pump out insulin. This is a conditioned response. If you are in your 30’s and are low carbing for the first time you can expect 3 MONTHS of low carbing before any significant changes occur in weight! That can seam like an eternity! Unfortunately, it takes that long for your insulin receptors to recover. If your in your 40’s, expect to take 6 months!!!

      Most people can’t wait that long to see if what they are doing is actually working. Prior to going low carb go have your blood work done. Especially monitor your cholesterol and TRIGLYCERIDES. After 1 month of no starches or sugars go recheck both of these. You should notice a DRAMATIC reduction in your triglycerides. That means your insulin is down and you are no longer converting blood sugar into fat. This also helps your liver to recover from the 30 years of working overtime in converting blood sugar into fat.

      Once your insulin receptors have recovered you will start seeing dramatic reductions in weight. At this point (3 to 6 months into it) you can reintroduce a few starches. This will actually HELP the weight loss because insulin will come back into the picture and will help your cells absorb blood sugar like it is supposed to do. At this point you will feel 20 years younger! Ever wonder why children are so energized from sugar and you get sleepy? INSULIN RESISTANCE is the reason.

      The down side to this is that you will never be able to go back to eating sugar like a kid. It takes as long as 6 months to reverse insulin resistance, but it only takes a few days to revert back to it.

      With that said, you now can turn the FOOD PYRAMID up side down. The 11 servings of bread/grains/pasta/starches become 1 serving! The 1 serving of meat/fat becomes 4 servings. The reason for the 4 to 11 ration is that fat has more than twice the calories per gram than sugar. The good news is that the NON-STARCHY veggies have virtually no calories per gram. This means you can eat MORE!! By eliminating starches from your diet you can eat more of the foods that really provide nutrition and you prevent and/or cure insulin resistance.

      The best part of all of this is your energy levels will go through the roof! Now your exercise and/or hard labor will pay off. You might feel a little queasy at times and this is when you need a quick sugar/starch boost. Having a homemade/organic cookie on hand to bump up the sugar on demand is great and will increase the fat burning/muscle building process.

      It is all very complex. I was diagnoses with Metabolic Syndrome at age 27. I was following a doctor’s advice to the T. I was exercising like a MAD man. The best I could do was maintain weight. They put me on statins and blood pressure meds at age 27. At ages 28 and 29 I went as far as growing ALL of my own food. I bought a deep freeze and put away all the summer’s overages in there to get me through the winter. I even learned to can some of the veggies like tomatoes. At age 29 I had a heart attack!! That was when I decided to find the TRUTH about diet and medicine. What I discovered is appalling. The more I learn the more I discover how much the advice coming down from Big Brother concerning diet and health is influenced by BIG AGRI and BIG PHARMA. These 2 entities have more influence over politics than anything else except OIL!

      Then there is WHEAT! How coincidental is it that the most promoted HEALTH food in the US is the most PROFITABLE? Every commercial break is filled with food adds and the number one add always concerns some sort of WHOLE GRAIN. These companies are making SO MUCH MONEY on this weed that they can afford as many commercials as they want to spread their lies. What makes WHEAT so much worse than most of the other starches is a lectin. All foods have lectins, but most break down when cooked and/or eaten. But, not wheat lectin. Wheat lectin easily passes through the gut membrane into the blood stream where it mimics insulin. It attaches to the insulin receptors just like insulin and stimulates the cells to absorb sugar just like insulin. There is just on problem. The wheat lectin doesn’t let go of the insulin receptor when the cell is full. The cell has to detach itself via an inflammatory process. This ultimately INCREASES INSULIN RESISTANCE. This constant invasion of wheat lectin may have more to do with today’s obesity epidemic than sugar!

      Wheat doesn’t stop there. It also has an affection for the mucus lining in the gut. This lining is what protects your body from foreign invaders. Wheat lectin attaches to this mucus and exits the bowel in a liquidly form. Most people/doctors mistake this laxative effect of wheat as a good thing. NOT!!! Long term bombardment of wheat/grain lectins on the small intestine will eventually result in diminished mucus production. This will expose the intestinal walls to other irritants. This will also diminish SEROTONIN! Most of your serotonin is made in this mucus lining of the small intestine. By eating wheat you reduce your serotonin levels causing all kinds of mental problems like BIPOLAR DISSORDER.

      I can go on for hours. I hope I gave you good reason to try something different. It doesn’t hurt anyone to try something different. In fact, it is good to change things up seasonally. There are books on that as well..

  • What is Agave Syrup? Is it more like honey or mollasses – Or corn syrup? Anyone out there with an answer? I just purchased some at Costco to use in cooking or my herb tea.

  • Water is the best. I used to drink gallons of soda. I loved it. Grew up on it. I became diabetic. I can’t stand the taste of any artificial sweetners. So I drink nothing but water.

  • People who drink diet drinks and gain weight, sorry to say, often do not have the right mindset or willpower to loose/ maintain a healthy weight. The people I believe Dr Hyman is talking about are the not so bright ones who have a diet soda with their McDonald’s, chips and dip, candy bars, etc. I drink diet Snapple’s often and have no problem not gaining weight. All it takes is a healthy diet and some will power. Stop blaming the diet drinks and blame the people for once.

  • this study is not a study. it’s a poll. Fat chicks like me drink diet soda because we don’t want to gain more weight. The weight once started is self replicating, so we are going to keep gaining, like it or not. So if asked if I drink diet soda, yes. Have I gained weight? Yes. This does not prove that I gained it from the diet soda. So, maybe I’ll quit again, maybe not. I quit before and didn’t lose any weight. I quit sugar and I didn’t lose weight. I quit carbs except for one meal a day again and didn’t lose any weight (I’d had some success with this before, until a birthcontrol shot made me gain 45 lbs back in 6 weeks) I went on a radical low fat diet, low salt, no sugar and exercise diet and didn’t lose weight. So maybe I’ll just quit beating myself up about it!

  • I’m convinced. Sugar glycates to proteins and causes inflammation which is a contributing factor to many diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even dementia.

    I know it is next to impossible to avoid sugar completely. But I’m avoiding it as much as I can. No sugar in my tea nor coffee. And no sodas — unless there is nothing else available. I’m avoiding refined carbohydrates that turns into sugar as well — things like pastries, pasta, bread, and certain processed foods.

    • I haven’t had a soft drink in almost 35 years, when I embarked on my quest for healthy living. It seems that almost every second shopping cart passing you by these days is loaded with jumbo bottles of soft drinks…the real thing or the fake version. One can help but think that most of it will probably be given to kids.

      Obviously, the most precious drink – water – which you don’t need to buy, in most cases, does not have the popularity that soft drinks have, because it’s colorless and bland in taste. It’s unfortunate that not enough people realize how crucial it is for their health. Perhaps if they read “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” by Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, M.D., they would think differently. I think the headline on the book cover says it all…”You are not sick, you are thirsty!”

      Cheers…here’s to your health!

  • I don’t like artificial sweeteners. How about xylitol in sugarless gum; is it okay? From what I understand, xylitol is a natural sweetener.
    I appreciate your comments.

    • Moderatation…chewing gum post meals may help some people improve digestion. However “chomping” on gum can increase gas and discomfort!

  • I never drink soda but I watched a junk food vegetarian friend drink one soda a day for years who also ate lots of M&M’s each night. She now has colon cancer that has spread to her liver, adrenal glands, and lungs. I tried to tell her how bad soda and sugar was for her but she didn’t listen.

  • I’ve heard (through that artificial sweeteners damage the liver just as much as alcohol does. While we don’t let our children drink alcohol, we should also stop them from drinking diet soda and chewing sugarless gum.

  • Sadly, I muat confess I am a diet soda addict. I understand now the link to disease and obesity. If I stop the sodas, can the effects be reversed?

    • Hi Judith,

      Yes! Stop the diet soda and watch as your body transforms back into its original balanced state. Everything from decreased cravings to improved sleep as well as chronic disease prevention await you!

  • This article is right on! The research is conclusive. If you eat or drink things that taste sweet, regardless of whether or not they actually contain sugar or even real calories, your brain thiks you have consumed sugars and it will send signals to the pancreas to release more insulin. Excess insulin programs your body to store more fat and causes other serious problems, including insulin resistance. There does not seem to be a good way around this.

    For more information on how this works:

    I agree with Dr. Hyman – you simply cannot pull a fast one on Mother Nature. She is smarter than we are and she has been at the business of life for far longer.

    To your great health!

    Jeff Bell

  • I have tried for some time now to give up fountain diet Coke. I am addicted to the saccharin in the soda. I can keep bottles and cans in my fridge and never touch them. Fountain drinks have a different formula and I have been unable to kick it! I watched the video “Sweet Misery”. I began having seizures around the same time that Diet Coke came out in the eighties (the video shows lab animals suffering the same fate!) Doctors never could find a cause for the seizures -but it was clear to me after watching the video! I gave up smoking years ago on my own, but so far can’t kick the Diet Coke habit!

    • Hi Karen,

      Sounds miserable! Have you tried buying a nice quality bubbly water or seltzer and squeezing some fresh lemon juice in? It can satisfy your urge for a cold effervescent drink while also working to alkalinize your system which decreases cravings- a two for one! For more ideas on how to eliminate cravings and prevent unwanted side effects from the artificial stuff, visit nutrition coaching:

  • Another problerm to look out for with most soft drinks, whether sugared or sugar-free. If they are carbonated, they will certainly adversely affect the PH balance of the body. That is probably reason enough to avoid them.

    • I was curious about this comment… rather than the sweetness, I find the carbonation in soda much more appealing than plain water, and had begun switching to plain or naturally flavored seltzers (no sweeteners). Wondering if Dr. Hyman has any thoughts on whether things like Perrier or other naturally (or non-naturally) sparkling waters are OK on the program, or healthy in general.

  • True said!!!Trust is the key for any relation whether it is of patient or doctor.If patient have a full faith on doctor’s ability he will never be in doubt for any treatment.That why the first thing to start any relation to have trust!!!Incredible blog.

  • I, too am a Diet Coke addict. I have tried for years to drop the habit, and have done so for a few brief moments in that time, longest time away from Diet Coke was 31 days. However, I run to Diet Coke when I am stressed or sad or frustrated. It is by far my “comfort.” I joke about it and say “Yeah, I have a coke habit, a Diet Coke habit!” I have dieted and exercised, and still now I find myself at the highest weight I have ever been, My Diet Coke intake varies every day, but I get at least one 44 oz Thirstbuster every day, if not two or three. I never drink all of the Thirsbuster, because I refuse to drink it once it is watered down. But everytiime I am cleaning my house I see Thirstbuster cups and I think $1.00 there, $1.00 there, and I actually feel asamed that I can not handle this addiction. So I will try this program and give up Diet Coke, again, once and for all. I am excited to go on this journey!

  • I am a Type II diabetic since 1984, and was, in my estimation, suffering from a severe addiction to diet sodas and artificial sweeteners. Accompanying this addiction was a severe insulin resistance resulting in my having to take 200 to 250 units of insulin a day. Since reading this article, I quit = cold turkey. The first few days were horrible – severe head and body aches, intense itching, sore joints and muscles, feeling excessively hot, followed by chills. It did subside after about 4 days, and I felt an immediate increase in my overall energy level.

    My insulin needs seem to be dropping, and my body core temperature has gone up a ful degree – from around 97.5 to a more normal 98.5.

  • It’s better to have sweets from fruits such as LOW-GLYCEMIC CHERRIES, which will NOT RAISE BLOOD SUGAR OR INSULIN.NATURE IS BEST!

  • I am a Type II diabetic since 2003. I have always been a big time soda drinker. I switched from sugar sodas to artificially sweetened upon my diagnosis. Recently, I have just begun to purge the “non-natural” things from my diet and am enjoying success much greater than I thought I would in not drinking diet sodas.

    I guess the question I have is this right now. If I feel like I want to indulge on an occasional soda every now and then. Like once a week or less. Is it better for me to drink a sugary soda with HFCS or a diet soda with the artificial sweeteners? I am going to test an idea I had with using sparkling water and then fresh fruit juice from my juicer as the sweetener to get that “soda pop” feeling.

    • That’s the best option! COmpletely avoid all hfcs and artificially sweetened products!

  • Hi,

    At official start of the Hyman Diet (4-1-12) I weighed 281.6 pounds on a 6’2″ frame. I have a small lower body so most of my weight was in my upper body chest and a huge stomach. I have had both my hips and both knees replaced and back pain that keeps me from exercising while I’m still this heavy along with not feeling very good. So I have planned to rely completely on diet until I reduce my weight to 250 pounds. As of this morning I weigh 270.1 pounds. This means 11.5 pounds in 14 days. I don’t feel hungry and I am eating very close to the 6 week starter diet. Of course no artificial sweeteners. Just water for liquid.


  • I weigh 108 and am 5’4″ and have been drinking diet drinks for 10 years and use Sweet and Low in my coffee. It never caused me to gain weight and my teeth have been cavity free since switching from sugar to Sweet and Low.

  • Diet soda, particularly aspartame, is the reason why my feet are numb and that numbness is climbing up my legs. Going off the soda as does drinking far too much in a day will create spark-like sensations in those numb areas, but when I was off the soda for a couple months, the feeling began to come back. Those sensations are painful, but I know that in a short time, they will leave entirely.

    Now, I’m determined to get off again, seeing all the other dangers, particular in gaining weight. I’ve noticed that immediately after drinking a soda, I’m bloated. Trouble is I like the taste. That’s the most difficult aspect to get past.

  • I got off diet soda and artificial sugars. Now, I can control my cravings. And a piece of fruit tastes sweet! Kick the soda habit. Nothing good about it.

  • I’ve given up my diet cokes now I find out I need to give up my artificial sweetner too. I hope it’s not asking for more that I can give.

  • I’ve given up my diet cokes and now I learn that I have to give up my artificial sweetner, too. OMG

  • How about some references in your article and not just opinions? And the statistics are questionable: “A study of 400 people found that those who drank two diet sodas a day or more increased their waist size by five times.” Does this mean that patients went from 40 inch waists to 200 inch waists? Really?

    • Hi Amy,

      We appreciate your interest in references and understand your concern. Please see The Blood Sugar Solution for a detailed list of references and evidenced-based research.

      Thank you for taking the time to communicate with us.

      • It’s taken me a while, but I have found information on the study that Mark is misquoting here. To recap, Mark says:

        “A study of 400 people found that those who drank two diet sodas a day or more increased their waist size by five times.”

        That is not what the study found. Again, if that were the case, study subjects would have increased their waist circumferences by a factor of 5 –> so from 40 inches to 200 inches (or whatever).

        What the study actually found is that study subjects who drank 2 or more diet sodas per day increased their waist sizes 500% compared to those who didn’t drink diet soda. This is VERY DIFFERENT than increasing their waist size “by five times” and Mark (a MEDICAL DOCTOR) should understand the difference. Misuse of statistics is a hallmark of internet charlatanism. I sincerely hope that Mark is better than that and this was just a careless mistake.

        Here’s a link to reliable information about the study discussed in this article:

        • Thank you for your concern Amy. Dr. Hyman is certainly not trying to misguide anybody and intends to be sincere, professional and consistent as best he can. We thank you for understanding that mistakes happen and value your loyalty in Dr. Hyman’s work.

  • I have a question that I hope someone from the “team” can help me with. Are these test results concerning artificial sweeteners relatively recent? About 10 years ago I tried to start the “Sugar Busters” (published in 2003) diet which has some similarities with “The Blood Sugar Solution” especially concerning watching carbs and foods that have a higher glycemic effect. That book actually said that artificial sweeteners were not harmful,

    I have an appointment with my doctor in about 2 weeks to get my blood sugar levels and cholesterol level checked and to discuss starting the “Blood Sugar Solution” plan. I was just wondering why your book has different conclusions about artificial sweeteners than the older book.

    Thank you for your help. I just want to be better able to explain it to my doctor if she doesn’t know about it already.

  • I have managed to give up all but the “odd” diet soda. I find I crave the bubbles and a plain sparkling water with a little real juice does the trick for me. I have not even bought the sparkling waters with the “natural” lemon etc. as I know now that “natural” means nothing. My problem is, I have found some lovely suitable desserts to make which need either the real sugar or a sugar substitute. The dessert would be good for me except for the choice of what kind of sweetner to put in. What do you suggest. The deserts have low fat cottage cheese, cream cheese but what for sweetner?

    • Hi Teresa!

      Great job decreasing your sugar and artificial sweetener intake. Dr. Hyman suggests adhering to a lifestyle which is predominantly low glycemic to prevent blood sugar imbalance and improve insulin function. Some desserts such as those that are dairy and gluten free are a great step towards this goal. By using flours such as coconut and almond flour along with small amounts of honey or fruit for sweetener you also help to enjoy a sweet treat without the toxic sugar hangover. For more info on what desserts Dr. Hyman likes, stay tuned for his soon-to- be released recipe book!

  • I have changed to water with a little lemon. I now don’t miss sodas .. it has helped my diet as well as my wallet.

  • I have heard that some airlines advise thir pilots not to consume aspartime products because of the affects on the performanceof consming several during a shift

  • I have gone a week without diet coke so far and I have also cut out carbs. I still use a half of a packet of splenda in my coffee, which is down from 2 packets. I had gastric bypass about 9 years ago and still find it hard to kick the sugar cravings. Some things I just can’t eat because I feel like I’m dying if I do so I avoid them at all costs. Chocolate is not one of those things. By getting rid of the diet cokes and cutting way down on the splenda, I drink half caf. most of the time also, after a week I still want a hershey’s kiss…or several of them.

  • As a registered dietitian, I am always amazed at hearing other dietitians promoting ‘fake foods’ as I call them (artificially sweetened, fat-free, etc)to their patients. I’ve been practicing for almost 25 years now and my philosophy has always been to use foods to heal the body. Thank you Dr Hyman for bringing all this information to the forefront and thank you for healing me also. I have almost totally cut sugar out of my diet and do not miss it at all. My hope is that more people will realize their ‘addiction’ and just eventually move away from it. There is a war out there to keep us sick and dependent on pharmaceutical drugs, I see it everyday in the work I do with my patients. One thing I must mention,that was recommended by my chiropractor, was to cut out the sugar and to not eat between meals and in the evening to get rid of my hot flashes. And it worked! I even strayed off of my regimen and guess what? yep, they returned. So as difficult as it was I have given up my evening snack (even a piece of fruit, I just eat it right after my dinner if desired) and my snacking,even though I thought I needed it as a hypoglycemic…nope I didn’t keel over! I’ve learned that it has to do with the cascade effect of hormones,insulin being the initial one. Incredible!

  • All sodas with or without sugar are artificially created and contain no nutritional value and do not belong in our body. All what our body needs is pure water, the purer the better. I drink carbonated purified water that quenches my thirsts better than without CO2. Natural springs, mineral waters contain this gas and it is very refreshing…

    It took me awhile but I finally understood that the closer to the natural food and drink the better of we are. Our biology has not changed in the last 10,000 years when we modified our diet from the simple way of having some gathered fruit, some roots, leaves and nuts, a small animal here and there. All our ratios of nutrients were in balance then, nothing too much, nothing too little. The agricultural revolution changed all that and we have too much of sugar, too much of simple carbs (in potatoes, corn, wheat products). Yes, we need to fill the bellies. In this country, the richest in world (still), we can afford to be selective what goes to our bodies. Fruits and veggies are actually less expensive than processed, prepared and advertised foods. The diet of the people (called hunters and gatherers ) that lived 10,000 years ago in paleolythic era was named the “paleo diet” consisting of about 75% of vegetables, 10% of fruit and meat has proven to reverse diabetes 2, take care of body fat, heart disease and basically inflammation in our bodies.

    If you walk through a grocery store, 90% is of what is for sale is NOT for human consumption, loaded either with sugar or salt. It’s all about money. The food industry hijacked our taste, our brains and our perception what is good for us.
    Most people (including myself until recently) trust the stores, TV commercials and the FDA. But thanks to some TV programs but mostly internet, we have access to the new research and data that tell us how to protect ourselves.
    There is a number of doctors, like Dr. Hayman, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Lustig. Dr. Sears and more that advocate and explain how important it is what we put in our bodies and how it affects our health.

    Inflammation has been implicated and the root of most chronic diseases and sugar and grains are that fuel them.
    Recently, I saw a TV show with Dr. Gupta who interviewed several researchers who showed in a brain scan that sugar affects us in the same way as cocaine does–it’s addictive… They talked about the sugar feeding cancer cells like gasoline feeds the fire.

    Nothing of this was known 20-30 years ago and I could not be more happy that I can apply this new knowledge.
    My father had diabetes 2 and took RXs and insulin and became very sick and fat. He did not know anything about stopping his sugar and grains. I became pre-diabetic which was accidentally discovered two years ago and I was scared and did not know what to do until I heard in Dr. Lusting’s lecture “Paleo diet and reverse diabetes 2” and I am NO longer pre-diabetic! I eat no added sugar, only up to 3 servings of fruit (25 grams of fructose) a day, tons of green veggies (including fermented), green veggie juice and meat and it is all delicious! No ice cream, no cookies, no cakes, no soft drinks, no bread, no buns BUT still have my both feet (not amputated)!

    My husband and I have a business by a busy highway in Colorado and we made a sign “Paleo diet can reverse diabetes 2. Google it” hoping to spread the news!

  • I stay away from diet sodas now, haven’t had one in about five months or so and am like others: like the bubbles, but as I get older, I don’t think the bubbles like me so much anymore. If the urge overcomes me I go for the sparkling water/Perrier. Or, the rare soda w/real sugar. I am a lifelong sugar addict as well, and have been doing better in that department last five months, although once I read that 72% dark chocolate was okay, I make that my dessert treat or for when the craving gets too bad. Diabetes runs in the family, so I know I have to really watch what I eat and wish I’d have had this information about twenty years ago. Boo to the government for not butting their noses in where they need to; that is, the food industry and mandate more in that department than in the areas they do, but I have determined the government probably wants us all to die off as quick as possible, anyways, so have resolved not to believe anything that has the label “government approved” attached to it. Thanks Dr Hyman and your staff for providing us the info we need to make wiser and better informed decisions in the process of taking charge of our own health and no longer being a slave to Western medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. Pretty much convinced it’s all a racket to keep us sick.

  • I am a person who struggled with yeast in her gut and any amount of sugar makes me worse. I do occasionally enjoy stevia or Maltitol in very small amounts. This is hard to read! As I can have nothing now!

  • addiction is addiction. . If we get pleasure it is addictive Should we give up every thing that gives us pleasure. Include me out. NOW, does anybody know if we can get medicare to pay for weight reduction by an obese 80 year old white male…like free health club membership. The fat chics are starting to look hot to this widower.

  • I’ve been drinking diet soda, but it has not tempted me to eat more or eat sweets. Everything I have been eating has been unprocessed, fresh foods. I have one or two diet sodas a day (diet ginger ale). I work out 30 minutes a day.The carbonation actually kind of holds me over for a bit. Then if I do get hungry, I grab an apple or cauliflower. If you can manage or don’t have sugar cravings (I guess I’m lucky, I don’t), then I don’t think this article really applies to you. I’m in the best shape of my life at 33. I have found eliminating any food sold in a box – other than a good fiber cereal from time to time – has really made me feel healthier and fuller.

    • Dear Ryan,
      Thank you for your interest in Dr.Hyman’s work. While it is great you arent affected by diet soda, remember there is usually a “silent” cost to most things not natural to the body so you might want to exercise caution for your long-term health.

      For more personalized nutrition advice, Dr Hyman’s virtual nutrition coaching team would be happy to work with you on an individual level to help you reach your goals. To work with the nutrition coaching team please go to: OR call (800) 892-1443 to get started.
      In Good Health,
      The Nutrition Team

  • I used to drink 2-3 20oz Diet Mt Dews a day, it kept me from eating sweet things. But I got it down to one a day and then none after the horror stories of aspartame. I’ll occasionally drink a Hanson’s diet root beer (it has Splenda-not much better), and I drink vanilla cream Stevia in my one coffee a day. I don’t know that I feel any better, other than not being jittery from all the caffeine. I do seem to lose weight easier when I don’t drink them, so reason enough not to drink them. And when you get off sugar/fake sugar, a strawberry tastes like ice cream! If you want to lay off sweets, take Chromium Picolinate, not artificial sweeteners.

  • Since I gave up Diet Pepsi about 7 months ago I find I no longer crave the sugar I used to crave and some things don’t even taste good to me any more. The problem, however, is I still am struggling to lose the weight. So, I am not sure how much of a role in my weight it played, but definitely played a role in me craving sweets.

  • The facts are, trading real sugar for chemically altered “sugar” is like trading arsenic for hemlock. Both are poison, and should be given up completely to live a healthier, longer life! I AM a living testament to giving up sugar, real or fake as well as carbs from grains. Have effortlessly lost 120 pounds as a result and gotten off all diabetic meds and insulin, am able to workout in the gym 5 days a week with a trainer, I am 60 yo and feel for the first time in years, like I am 30 again. Prior to this, while comsumming high carb and high sugar/chemical sugars I was virtually at deaths door at 59 yo, just one year ago I felt most days like I was 100, Want to feel and look great again? Give up comsumming these poisons we call eatable and follow Dr Hyman’s advice!