The 8 things that happen when you finally stop drinking diet soda

You’ve decided to give up diet soda — good idea! Maybe you weren’t hitting your weight-loss goals or couldn’t stomach that long list of ingredients anymore. Or perhaps you heard one too many times that it’s just not good for you.

Whatever the reason, eliminating diet soda from your diet will improve your health from head to toe. Research on diet soda is still in its infancy, but there’s enough out there to identify what you can look forward to when you put down the can and cool down with an unsweetened iced tea instead.

Migraines disappear and focus sharpens.

It turns out the headaches you expected from diet soda withdrawal didn’t materialize. And now that you’ve quit the stuff, you probably find yourself thinking clearly for the first time in a while. That’s because the chemicals that make up the artificial sweetener aspartame may have altered brain chemicals, nerve signals, and the brain’s reward system, which leads to headaches, anxiety, and insomnia, according to a review in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And a 2013 animal study found that rats that drank diet soda had damaged cells and nerve endings in the cerebellum — the part of the brain responsible for motor skills. (If you’re still drinking diet soda, here’s what’s happening in your body right now.)

Taste buds are more sensitive.

It’s not your imagination: Without your usual diet soda chaser, you may find that food has more flavor. It has subtlety. It’s more enjoyable. That’s because the artificial sweeteners in your diet soda overwhelmed your taste buds with an onslaught of sweetness. Aspartame ranks 200 times sweeter than table sugar. Splenda? Six hundred times. In fact, brain scans show that diet soda alters sweet receptors in the brain and prolongs sugar cravings rather than satisfying them. “We often see patients change snack choices when they give up diet soda,” says Heather Bainbridge, RD, from Columbia University Medical Center Weight Control Center. “Rather than needing sugary treats or something really salty like pretzels and chips, they reach for an apple and a piece of cheese. And, when they try diet soda again, they find it intolerably sweet.”

Read the rest of the list here.

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