We recently had this question posted to Skeptics, Is this description of the processes which take place in the body for an hour after drinking Coca Cola accurate? now the author of the picture seen in this previous post has again released another picture this time supposedly explaining what happens within an hour of drinking a Diet Coke.

Are these claims real?

Diet Coke with beer belly and several sections of text


"Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain". Susan E. Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist.

First 10 Minutes – Tricks Your Taste Buds And Attacks Your Teeth

The phosphoric acid attacks the enamel in your teeth, while the artificial sweeteners like aspartame hit your system. Aspartame may trigger taste receptors and trick your body into thinking it has just processed sugar.

20 Minutes – May Switch On Fat Storage Mode

Like regular Coke this can trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode.

Data from a number of studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study also reported greater risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is related to diabetes and cardiovascular problems, for consumers of artificially sweetened beverages.

Also some data indicates that those who consumed artificially sweetened beverages had double the risk of metabolic syndrome compared to non-consumers.

40 Minutes – Can Cause Addiction

The potentially deadly combination of caffeine and aspartame creates a short addictive high similar in the way cocaine works. Excitotoxins are released which may exhaust your brain by overstimulating it’s neuroreceptors, especially if consumed on a regular basis.

60 Minutes – Depletes Nutrients, Makes You Hungry & Thirsty For More

Unlike the small amount of satisfaction you get from regular coke your body may still crave sweets. This makes you likely to reach for another soda, or worse, some other junk food you consider to be safe and the cycle continues. A can of diet coke provides no nourishment and would replace a more nutritious drink you could have drunk while potentially depleting your body of essential minerals

It will never quench your thirst as it dehydrates rather than hydrates your body. A lack of vital water can lead to brain fog, poor concentration, fatigue and feeling irritable.

News article reference

  • 1
    possible duplicate of Is aspartame dangerous? Aug 6, 2015 at 21:09
  • 1
    might be worth at least linking each claim to its respected answer, as this picture is circling all social media atm, as is the regular coke we already had answered this week.
    – Himarm
    Aug 6, 2015 at 21:49
  • 3
    Image too fuzzy to read; no link given to readable version.
    – tcrosley
    Aug 7, 2015 at 4:37
  • 2
    I don't have the energy to go through it point by point in detail this time because some of the claims are the same, 3 is just a rephrasing of the dopamine production claim from the last one. Anything enjoyable can be addictive. the second half of 4 is just the same claim about diuretic properties and loss of minerals from the last one.
    – Murphy
    Aug 7, 2015 at 9:50
  • 1
    The claim is garbage and obviously so because it fails the "compared to what" test. Every claim is arguably worse in the sugary versions of the same drinks, even before assessing whether the specific claims are demonstrably valid for diet driks at all.
    – matt_black
    Jan 2, 2021 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Once we run through the list of ingredients in Diet Coke which are carbonated Water, Caramel Color, Aspartame, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Caffeine in comparison to the claim, we can see that some of the smaller claims for this Diet Coke Infographic seems to be partially true over time when unusually large amounts are consumed, while others are partially false, which ideally makes the whole claim of 'what happens after drinking a can of Diet Coke' to be false.

  1. First 10 minutes- This claim can be denied per the comment that "Diet drinks are less acidic, but still a problem" for dental erosion. Phosphoric acid claim may be denied only partially since sugar-free soft drinks often have as high erosive potential as sugar-containing soft drinks but drinking one can of diet coke is no more acidic than drinking orange juice. By comparison, both diet and regular sodas are only slightly less acidic than stomach acid which has a pH of approximately 1.5 to 3.5 and strength of 0.5 percent, or 5,000 parts per million. Per Academy of General Dentistry, "a tooth immersed in Regular Coke for 48 hours would have 6% of its mass dissolved away, while that same tooth immersed in Diet Coke would lose “only” 1.5% of its mass" and also per Murphy, phosphoric acid in diet does not appear to cause loss of bone mass at least in animals so it's unlikely to cause problems for human bones when drinking one can of Diet Coke. This denial is only for drinking one can of Diet Coke and please take into account qualified dentist advise regarding frequent diet soda consumption in relation to demineralization, or loss of tooth material beginning at a pH of 5.5, although under certain conditions, may even start at a higher pH and research evidence which shows that incessant consumption of diet or regular soda will eventually place us at increased risk for dental decay.

    "Hysteria around the aspartame in diet drinks is not justified" by the evidence. Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener made primarily of two amino acids; aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Aspartame in Diet Coke is one of the most thoroughly researched ingredients in use with more than 200 studies confirming its safety. However, in the review of Dr Walton on 164 studies which were felt to have relevance to human safety questions, 83 (92%) identified one or more problems with aspartame out of 90 non-industry-sponsored (independent) studies. Of the 74 aspartame industry-sponsored studies, all 74 (100%) claimed that no problems were found with aspartame. The FDA has continued to support its use as a "general purpose sweetener in food."

    Biological effects: "In the body, aspartame is broken down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Methanol can be toxic in high amounts, but the amounts that result from the breakdown of aspartame is lower than with many “natural” foods. For example, drinking a liter of diet soda would lead to consumption of 55 milligrams (mg) of methanol, as compared to as much as 680 mg of methanol from a liter of fruit juice.

    Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are amino acids and are naturally present in many foods that contain protein. They do not cause health problems in most people. However people with the rare disease phenylketonuria need to restrict their intake of phenylalanine, one of the components of aspartame, because their bodies cannot break it down and so are usually counseled to avoid aspartame."

  2. 20 minutes- The claim 'this can trigger insulin' is false since research shows that in healthy humans, the ingestion of sucrose, but not acesulfame-K, aspartame, cyclamate, or saccharin (at moderate doses), increased blood glucose and insulin over a 2-h period. A single, oral, or i.g. dose of sucralose, aspartame or acesulfame-K also did not modify plasma concentrations of GLP-1 and peptide YY (peptide YY is also secreted by L-cells and reduces hunger).

    However, artificial sweeteners produce counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements per Susan Swithers of Purdue University but the evidence is mixed ( correlation does not imply causation).

    Recent data from humans and rodent models have provided little support for artificially sweetened beverages in promoting weight loss or preventing negative health outcomes such as Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular events. Instead, a number of studies suggest people who regularly consume artificially sweetened beverages are at increased risk compared with those that do not consume artificially sweetened beverages; with the magnitude of the increased risks similar to those associated with sugar-sweetened beverages.

    It appears that there may be some cause for concern whether artificial sweeteners cause problems by disrupting the gut bacteria which needs to be further studied. Artificial sweeteners do not satisfy our biological sugar cravings in the same manner as sugar, and could therefore lead to increased food intake but the evidence again is mixed. Consuming aspartame-sweetened carbonated mineral water produces a short-term increase in subjective appetite. Consumption of diet soda at least daily was associated with significantly greater risks of select incident metabolic syndrome components and type 2 diabetes although these observational data cannot establish causality. A recent study corroborates the association between increased incidence of type 2 diabetes and high consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks in European adults.

    One explanation which is not yet researched may be that as the body gets used to experiencing the sweet flavor of diet soda without absorbing any calories, it might begin to forget that foods containing real sugar and other carbohydrates do deliver calories and researchers are still trying to find out the link between zero-calorie soda and weight gain.

  3. 40 minutes- The claim 'can cause addiction' is partially false since a can of Diet Coke contains three to four times less caffeine (28 mg to 76 mg) than a small Starbucks coffee. Moderate caffeine consumption, which, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration equals 100 to 200 mg per day, may cause side effects such as jitteriness, sleeplessness, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, dehydration, frequent urination or dependence. People who ingest caffeine daily may become dependent and experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, headache or fatigue, if they suddenly cease consumption.

    Factors besides caffeine are likely at work here since research suggests that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda (such as aspartame) may prompt people to keep refilling their glass because artificial sugars don't produce satiety like the real sugars. In a 2008 study, for instance, the brains of women who drank water that was alternately sweetened with sugar and Splenda showed the difference through functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans which revealed that even though both drinks were highlighted in the brain's reward system, the sugar did so more completely. "In other words, artificial sweeteners may spur drinkers or their brains to keep chasing a "high" that diet soda keeps forever just out of reach. It's not clear that this teasing effect can lead to dependence, but it's a possibility."

    One of the researchers of the study Dr. Martin P. Paulus, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego says "Artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects-meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol, and even drugs of abuse. Whenever you have that, there is a potential that a subgroup of people will have a chance of getting addicted. There is no clear-cut evidence of biochemical dependence on diet soda, but my sense is that certainly people do become habituated to diet soda and dependent upon it." There is some speculation largely unconfirmed, as of yet that diet sodas have subtle effects on insulin and blood-sugar levels that trigger hunger and food cravings and influence how and what one eats. Experts also say diet soda and the artificial sweeteners it contains can make some people psychologically and even physically dependent on it in ways that mimic more serious addictions and unlike sugared soda, which will make you gain weight if you drink too much of it.

  4. 60 minutes and beyond-The claim 'provides no nourishment' is partially false since when it comes to meeting daily water and hydration needs, all beverages, including caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, are hydrating. This can be juice, soft drinks, tea, milk, water and coffee.

    There is no convincing evidence that caffeine leads to dehydration, however caffeine is a mild diuretic per Dr. Ann Grandjean. The ranges of caffeine in Diet coke vary from a minimum of 28 mg (7.5 fl oz can) to 76 mg (20.5 fl oz can) while research shows an increase in urine volume only at the 360 mg dose of caffeine.

  • 4
    In 1, I don't see the point of comparing soda to gastric acid. The latter is not normally in frequent contact with the teeth, and when it is (as with people who have bulimia or vomit frequently for other reasons), it most certainly can cause dental erosion. Aug 20, 2015 at 3:31
  • 1
    The point was to show that the PH of Diet coke is less than the PH of natural HCL present in the stomach since the acid in stomach is about 0.5-1M in hydrogen ion concentration and this really isn't that bad in terms of acidity when compared to other concentrated acids per Nicholas Calcaterra, DDS-directionsindentistry.net/diet-soda-is-better-for-my-teeth. Aug 20, 2015 at 4:41
  • @pericles "PH of Diet coke is less than the PH of natural HCL" -> "pH of Diet code is higher than the pH of HCl - that is, it is less acidic."
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 20, 2015 at 6:45
  • It may not be as bad as concentrated acids, nor as bad as stomach acid - but most people don't put either of those in their mouths on a regular basis. And those who do, at least in the latter case, do in fact experience dental erosion. See for instance informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/000163598423045. And note that the Calcaterra article you cite is claiming that diet soda does harm the teeth. Aug 20, 2015 at 7:33
  • Yes, frequent consumption of diet soda does harm the teeth in the longer duration which is already mentioned in the answer in bold font and both stomach acid and Diet/non-diet soda causes dental erosion but this claim is 'after drinking one can of Diet Soda', which is not the same case. Also the related point made is that Diet soda is less acidic than stomach acid. Aug 20, 2015 at 8:41

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