Diet soda – it’s a refreshing treat for many who are trying to watch their weight. Most of us suspect that it’s not the healthiest drink around, particularly when we take a quick look through the unpronounceable list of ingredients. But now a new study suggests a specific reason to avoid drinking too much diet pop: it may cause kidney damage.
Nurses’ Health Study Findings
The findings come from the Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest and longest-running studies of various factors affecting women’s health. The study began in 1976 and expanded in 1989 and has studied 238,000 participating nurses.
Findings from the study relating to diet soda and possible kidney damage were released in October 2009. 3,256 participants were part of this segment of the study, which lasted 6 years. Those who reported drinking 2 or more diet sodas per day (with a soda being defined as a glass, bottle, or a can) had a 30% drop in their level of kidney functioning, which is the rate at which the kidneys can filter the blood.
The study was adjusted to consider other factors that might have caused the drop, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and the participants’ levels of physical activity. The participants who showed kidney damage had begun the study with kidneys that functioned properly.
Additionally, participants who drank sugar-sweetened drinks such as regular pop, juices and iced tea had no incidence of reduced kidney function.
Why Would Diet Pop Harm Kidneys?
Researchers are wondering how the ingredients in diet soft drinks might cause kidney damage, but the specifics are unknown at this point. Some researches suggest that the sweeteners used in the sodas might cause kidney scarring over a period of time.
How Significant is the Loss of Kidney Function?
You may be wondering how significant the loss of 30% of kidneys’ filtering capability could be. Scientists estimate that normal ages causes kidney function to decline at a rate of 1 mL per minute for each year after age 40. Those who drank 2 or more diet sodas daily lost function at a rate of 3 mL per minute per year, so their rate of kidney function decline was 3 times that of those drinking less than 2 diet pops daily.
Kidney dysfunction is on the rise in America, with 20 million of us having some degree of chronic kidney disease. Additionally, the last two decades have each seen a doubling in the incidence of kidney disease diagnoses. Diet sodas could be one contributor to this growing problem.
Study participants who reported drinking one serving of diet soda daily did not show any increased evidence of kidney damage. As we wait for further findings on this issue, one thing seems sure: it’s wise to cut down on your intake of diet soda, or to remove it from your diet totally if possible.
Try alternatives such as water (plain or flavored), teas or low-calorie (and natural) fruit juices.