Expert Advice: The Truth About Soda Consumption and Diabetes

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By : Suvarna Sheth

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, managing how many carbohydrates and sugars you consume is a daily task and goal.

Consuming sugary beverages is also a major pit-fall for many, and while diet soda may be a saving grace, new research finds that sugary drinks may be problematic, as well as a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.

We speak to Rebecca Frink, RD, CDE at HonorHealth Diabetes Center in Scottsdale, AZ for some expert advice on soda and diabetes.

Enjoy and be educated with this special Q/A:

Should people with T1D or T2D avoid soda? Why?

All people, diabetic or not, should limit or avoid soda consumption. An occasional soda (regular or diet) will not have long term detrimental effects if kept in moderation.

Is diet soda a good alternative to soda if you are watching your carbs and sugar intake?

The benefit is that they have very few carbs. An occasional diet soda would be a better choice if someone is trying to avoid blood sugar spikes.

There is research to support both regular and diet soda drinkers frequently have higher BMIs (body mass index). Unfortunately, the reason is elusive and multifactorial.

Do you have patients with diabetes that drink soda?

It’s not a surprise to see newly diagnosed patients who are regularly drinking sugary beverages, which includes regular soda.

We educate and recommend that they decrease or eliminate consumption. If someone with diabetes habitually drinks diet soda, I encourage them to drink more water and limit artificially sweetened beverages.

Artificial Sweeteners

Can the artificial sweeteners in diet soda (aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose) “trick” the body and spike insulin levels?

There is some evidence to support that artificial sweeteners may cause spikes in insulin levels but not all research supports it.

The precise reason for the insulin spiking remains unknown but it has been suggested that the gut microbiome could play a role.

Is it a myth that artificial sweeteners make you crave more sugar?

There are likely physiological as well as psychological factors that contribute to a “craving” of sugar after consuming artificial sweeteners.

Possible physiological changes from taste receptors, hormonal, brain signaling, and the microbiome could play roles.

Psychological factors could be something as simple as a constant feeling of deprivation from real sugar for choosing artificial sweeteners constantly.


Are sugary drinks a risk factor for developing diabetes in children?

Correct, excessive sugary beverage consumption can be a contributing factor in childhood obesity and diabetes.

Is soda drinking associated with weight gain? How about diet soda?

As I mentioned above there is research to support that soda drinkers tend to have higher BMIs.

A regular 12 oz soda has approximately 150 calories but won’t achieve fullness or satiety thus is empty calories that can attribute to weight gain.

Diet soda consumption is much more elusive and can have several contributing factors. For example, a person may perceive that they did well by having a diet beverage and reason with themselves to have a second helping at dinner.

Lime with mint and soda juice

What are some alternatives to soda that you would suggest?

Seltzer/sparkling mineral water without added sugar or non-nutritive sweeteners is an option for people who love bubbles or need a beverage with a spritz.

Plain water jazzed up with mint leaves, cucumber slices or fruit wedges is also a great alternative.


Any other thoughts you would like to share?

Drinking small amounts of regular or diet beverages once in a while will not do harm but on a regular basis or in excess it can affect our bodies.

Choosing plain water is always going to be the (pardon the pun) clear winner!