Migraines disappear and focus sharpens.
It turns out the headaches you expected from a 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.
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 hundreds times sweeter than table sugar. Splenda (also known as sucralose)? 600 times. In fact, brain scans show that diet soda alters sweet receptors in the brain and prolongs sugar cravings rather than satisfies 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.”
The scale finally goes the right way.
While you may have started drinking diet soda to facilitate weight loss, quitting it may actually do the trick. A recent 9-year study found older adults who drank diet soda continued to pack on belly fat. The study piggybacks on research that found each daily diet soda increases your chance of becoming obese in the next decade by 65%, and a study published in Diabetes Care that found drinking diet soft drinks daily was associated with an increase in metabolic syndrome—obesity, high blood-pressure, high triglycerides—which leads to heart disease and diabetes.
Putting down the soda may be the best way to improve your bone strength and reduce your risk of fractures. One 2014 study found that each daily soda increased the chance of hip fracture by 14% for postmenopausal women. And another found that older women who drank cola had lower bone mineral density in their hips. The jury is still out on why soda has this effect, but the science pretty clearly suggests that a soda habit weakens your bones.