To wrap up a special legislative session on highway funding, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a measure that will generate close to $300 million over two years to help pay for upgrades to the state’s roads and...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- Is Diet Soda Worse than Regular Soda?
Is Diet Soda Worse than Regular Soda?
There was an interesting story in CNN Health yesterday about a group of medical experts that are suggesting that diet soda might actually have negative nutrition outcomes. This is of special interest to folks that follow the soda tax proposals that have been cropping up across the states in recent years, because these bills often propose to tax full-sugar sodas while exempting diet soda in an attempt to nudge consumers to sugar-free soda options. From the article:
Purdue University researchers reviewed a dozen studies published in past five years that examined the relationship between consuming diet soda and health outcomes. They then published an opinion piece on their findings in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, saying they were “shocked” by the results.
"Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health," said Susan Swithers, the report's author and a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences. “But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect.”
Artificial sweeteners in diet soda fulfill a person’s craving for a sweet taste, without the calories. But that's the problem, according to researchers. Think of it like crying wolf.
Fake sugar teases your body by pretending to give it real food. But when your body doesn't get the things it expects to get, it becomes confused on how to respond.
On a physiological level, this means when diet soda drinkers consume real sugar, the body doesn’t release the hormone that regulates blood sugar and blood pressure.
I’m not an endocrinologist so I can’t comment on the medical validity of these claims, but this development does tell us something about tax policy. Using the tax code to try to influence personal decisions (especially ones as personal as nutrition choices) is difficult because the science is always changing as we learn more about health. Meanwhile, blanket tax policies only promote one government-approved option, when there are many combinations that might work to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
This is especially important to remember as soda tax advocates try to present an image of a unified body of literature in favor of soda taxes, when in fact there is good reason to believe soda taxes will just lead consumers to substitute calories from other sources.
Follow Scott on Twitter.
Get Email Updates from the Tax Foundation
We will never sell or share your information with third parties.
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.