Open happiness? Quite the opposite, perhaps: Artificially-sweetened beverages like Diet Coke and other low-cal sodas may actually be making us depressed.
A large new National Institutes of Health study — nearly 246,000 participants — found a link between diet soda consumption and depression risk. Adults who drank diet soda regularly were 31% more likely to be depressed than those who didn’t.
The researchers looked at all sorts of different drinks — diet soda, regular soda, tea, fruit punch, coffee — over a 10-year period. Diet soda, regular soda, fruit punch and iced teas were all linked to depression, with diet drinks, punches and teas linked more strongly than regular soda. The strongest association showed up in diet fruit punch drinkers.
None of which necessarily means that diet soda (or fruit punch) causes or even contributes to depression. Maybe depressed individuals are just more likely to drink diet soda, and the two are merely correlated. Maybe whatever trait makes people watch their calories is also linked to a propensity for mood disorders. Or maybe it can be explained by the link between fatty food/refined carbs and depression — people who eat fast food or junk food often may also be more likely to regularly drink (diet or regular) soda.
Regardless, it’s yet another reminder that being calorie-free doesn’t mean diet soda is risk-free, as the Refinery 29 crew so nicely puts it. Artificial sweeteners and the diet drinks that love them have been linked to lowered bone density loss, increased hunger, diabetes, stroke and more. So do yourself a favor and ditch the diet drinks; water can take care of hydration need, coffee and tea your caffeine fix, and kombucha or seltzer water if you crave carbonation — and all of these drinks come with health benefits, not health risks.