As I sit here typing this, I am sipping a tall glass of diet pepsi leftover from our party Friday night (I’m shocked it’s still fizzy, like, four days later). While I cut way back on diet soda about a year ago, it’s been hard for me to avoid it recently, thanks to finals and needing to stay awake through marathon group study sessions. Sure, it’s better than cocaine, but it makes me a little dizzy to think of all the weird chemicals I’ve taken in over the past three weeks.

This entry on Washington Post blog The Checkup reminded me of some of the reasons I am not such a fan of diet sodas. While so far, scientific studies have shown that artificial sweeteners don’t appear to pose cancer risks, there is some speculation that they mess with our perception and processing of real sugar.

David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston suggests that diet drinks, with their lack of nutrients and intensely sweet flavors may condition us to be less satisfied by naturally-sweet, nutrient-rich foods like fruits as well as the non-sweet flavors of vegetables, legumes, and the like. This could cause some people to make unhealthy choices, often replacing those calories absent from the drinks with other sources. Being able to associate sweetness with caloric intake is one of the internal cues that may be subdued by excess consumption of diet drinks. I guess only time and long-term studies of the effects of diet drinks will tell for sure.

A sundae is a beautiful thing once in a while, and with a balanced diet, you can easily work in the occasional treat, but it’s no substitute for a vitamin-packed piece of fruit—or a meal. I am totally talking to my 19-year-old self here, who was known to eat ice cream with cereal for dinner when the dining hall was having an off-night, which happened pretty often. Glad I learned how to cook.

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