Could diet soda stave off this type of cancer?

Could diet soda stave off this type of cancer?

The potential health problems associated with consuming diet sodas or other artificial sweeteners are well-documented, including a dizzying range of conditions such as weakened tooth enamel, headaches, prediabetes and more.

But a study from the Yale Cancer Center may point to one unexpected positive benefit – an association with a significantly lower risk of colon cancer recurrence and cancer death.

A team of researchers found that participants who drank one or more 12-ounce serving of artificially sweetened beverages (including caffeinated and decaffeinated colas and other carbonated beverages) per day experienced a 46 percent improvement in risk of cancer recurrence or death compared to those that didn’t.

A further review found approximately half of the benefit stemmed from substituting an artificially sweetened beverage sweetened with sugar.

However, Dr. Henry Govekar, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says patients should hesitate before starting to guzzle diet sodas.

“I found the study interesting, but I’m not sure I would recommend a patient to start drinking artificially sweetened beverages,” he says.

Other than age and genetic factors – namely family history and racial/ethnic background – diet, activity levels, smoking and alcohol consumption are some of the highest risk factors of colon cancer.

While it seems obvious that saving a few calories by switching to diet soda could help with your waistline, Dr. Govekar says it wasn’t clear the study controlled for other potential changes patients may have made to their lives.

In addition, Dr. Govekar says the individual’s intestinal biome – the bacteria in your gut – can be a contributing factor to colorectal cancer instances, and artificial sweeteners can have some drastic effects on those microbes.

For now, he says the best preventative medicine remains holistic body care and regular screenings.

“I would not recommend for patients to start drinking artificially sweetened beverages knowing the other risks the drinks carry,” he says. “I would advise patients to live a healthy lifestyle, drink more water, take fiber, watch what they eat, exercise and limit things that we know can have a negative effect on our lives including smoking and alcohol.”

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About the Author

Nathan Lurz
Nathan Lurz

Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.