Ask a Best Doctor: Why Doesn’t Bloomberg Just Promote Diet Soda?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Two-liter bottles of regular and diet soda are seen for sale at a Manhattan store on May 31, 2012 in New York City. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is proposing a ban on sodas and sugary drinks that are more than 16 ounces in an effort to combat obesity. Diet sodas would not be covered by the ban and many grocery stores would be exempt.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Photo: Mario Tama/2012 Getty Images

When I hear about Bloomberg's anti-soda campaign, I always wonder, Why don't they just mention diet soda as an option? Is diet soda not so great for you either?

It really isn't. "Diet sodas, and all diet drinks, have aspartame or sugar supplements that stimulate the pancreas in the same way regular sugar does," says Dr. Ohan Karatoprak, director of the wellness and family medicine departments at Holy Name Medical Center. That extra stimulation produces extra insulin, which then causes weight gain and belly fat, and from there it's a slippery slope to increased risk for cancer, a heart condition, or diabetes. Don't freak out completely: These risks are more likely when you're drinking soda in the 32-ounce size Bloomberg warns against. If you're of normal weight and downing a twelve-ounce can of Diet Coke from time to time, "we don't prefer it, but it's not such a problem," Karatoprak says. You could always just reach for a seltzer; it's the doctor's bubbly drink of choice.