You may have heard that “diet sodas are even worse than regular.” But is it really true? Why would artificial sweeteners even be legal, if they’re so bad? Today, let’s look at one specific diet soda, Sprite Zero, and try to determine: Is it healthy?
Sprite Zero is sugar free, caffeine free, and free of artificial colors. However, it has the artificial sweetener aspartame, which studies have linked to possible risks of cancer, heart disease, and other issues. It also has acesulfame K, another artificial sweetener with potential health risks.
Below, I’ll discuss whether Sprite Zero is a good choice for weight loss and whether it raises blood sugar. I’ll also address whether Sprite Zero is actually healthier than regular Sprite, and whether it’s ok to drink it every day.
Is Sprite Zero Bad for You?
Here are the 9 specific questions I’ll be answering about Sprite Zero nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Is Sprite Zero Made Of?
- What Is the Sweetener in Sprite Zero?
- Does Sprite Zero Raise Blood Sugar?
- Does Sprite Zero Have Caffeine?
- Is Sprite Zero High in Sodium?
- Is Sprite Zero Good for Weight Loss?
- Is Sprite Zero Healthier Than Sprite?
- Is It Bad to Drink Sprite Zero Every Day?
- Is Sprite Zero Vegan?
1. What Is Sprite Zero Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at what Sprite Zero actually contains:
Sprite Zero Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium.
Here are my takeaway points on Sprite Zero’s ingredients:
- Sprite Zero has aspartame. This may be the artificial sweetener with the worst reputation of all. Personally, I mostly avoid it because of the research suggesting a possible connection to depression. But there are also possible links to cancer, heart disease, and more. We’ll cover aspartame more below.
- Sprite Zero has acesulfame potassium. This is another artificial sweetener with a bit of a sketchy reputation. Some studies have linked it to possible cancer risk and thyroid damage. More detail below.
- Sprite Zero is caffeine free. Caffeine may actually have some health benefits, such as reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s… But it’s habit forming, and too much can disrupt sleep. So, sometimes a caffeine-free drink like Sprite Zero is best.
As you can see, the main concern about Sprite Zero for most people would just be the artificial sweeteners (aspartame and acesulfame potassium).
So, let’s look more closely at those sweeteners next.
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2. Does Sprite Zero Have Artificial Sweeteners?
Sprite Zero contains the artificial sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame K. These are two of the most widely used artificial sweeteners in the world, and both FDA approved. However, studies have suggested possible links to cancer, heart disease, obesity, stroke, Alzheimer’s, depression, and more.
Let’s start by discussing aspartame, since it’s especially controversial. It’d be hard to cover all of its possible health risks here. If you want to go deep on this subject, start with this page from U.S. Right to Know. That said, I’ll try to summarize.
Some of the biggest concerns with aspartame include:
- Cancer: There has been evidence showing that rodents develop cancer when exposed to aspartame over their lifespan. Aspartame was also posed as a possible explanation for dramatic increases in malignant brain tumors in the years immediately after its approval.
- Heart Disease: Several high-profile cardiologists have sworn off aspartame based on the evidence against this sweetener. A 2014 study found that women who had more than two diet drinks per day experienced more cardiovascular events (like heart attacks).
- Brain Disease: Studies show that consumption of diet drinks is linked to three times higher risk of stroke and dementia. There are also possible connections to Alzheimer’s disease, via methanol, which is a breakdown product of aspartame in the body.
- Obesity: This one is quite ironic, as aspartame is used in many “diet” products. But research has linked aspartame to weight gain, along with increased appetite.
- And more: There have been possible links found between aspartame and headaches, mood disorders, learning problems, kidney function decline, diabetes, pre-term birth, and more. Find a more complete list with sources here.
Now, what about the other sweetener in Sprite Zero—acesulfame potassium? This sweetener is often referred to as “acesulfame K” or “Ace-K.” Here are some concerns people have with it:
- Studies in the 1970s suggested that acesulfame K may cause cancer—but the studies were of low quality. (source)
- A breakdown product of acesulfame potassium, acetoacetamide, may cause damage to the thyroid. (source)
- In a study of lactating women, acesulfame K was the artificial sweetener most found to make its way into breast milk. (source)
Overall, the long-term health concerns with artificial sweeteners are just that—concerns. If they were proven to be unsafe, they would probably not be approved by the FDA and other government bodies around the world.
The important thing is to acknowledge that you may be taking some amount of risk with the artificial sweeteners in Sprite Zero. But you may be just fine, especially in moderation.
- Does Sprite Zero have sucralose? Sprite Zero does not contain sucralose. Instead, it is sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium.
- Is Sprite Zero the same as diet? “Diet Sprite” was the old version of Sprite Zero Sugar (a.k.a. Sprite Zero). They are essentially the same, yes.
3. Does Sprite Zero Raise Blood Sugar?
Since Sprite Zero doesn’t have carbs, we could expect that it doesn’t raise blood-sugar in the short term. That is, it should not cause a “blood sugar spike” after drinking it.
However, whether Sprite Zero will raise your blood-sugar in the long-term is a different question, and a harder one to answer.
Research suggests that many zero-calorie sweeteners can alter your gut bacteria in a way that worsens your tolerance to carbs on a long-term basis.
For example, a 2014 study on rats found that “aspartame elevated fasting glucose levels and an insulin tolerance test showed aspartame to impair insulin-stimulated glucose disposal.”
Here’s a broader study on how non-caloric sweeteners can induce glucose intolerance by altering gut bacteria. And here’s a simpler YouTube video discussing the science overall.
And that’s not all. Some authorities also worry about zero-calorie sweeteners causing blood-sugar issues through a whole different mechanism.
That is, non-caloric sweeteners can decouple sensations of sweet taste from the presence of actual sugar in your meal. This can make it harder for your body to properly “know” when it needs to release insulin in the future.
It’s kind of like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“: With artificial sweeteners, your brain perceives sweet taste, so it starts to prepare for a blood-sugar spike… but then the sugar never comes—it was a false alarm.
So over time, your brain stops preparing as much for real sugar when you taste sweetness, and your metabolic response becomes less sensitive and effective.
That’s the theory, anyway. For more detail, you can listen to Susan Swithers, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University, on the Science Friday podcast. Or read her article in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.
In any case, proceed with caution. If blood-sugar control is crucial for you, don’t assume Sprite Zero is completely safe. And keep in mind that some effects may be delayed, via changes to how your gut bacteria affects your glucose tolerance.
- Does Sprite Zero have any carbs? Sprite Zero does not have any appreciable amount of sugar or carbohydrates. The label clearly states 0g of carbs per serving.
- Can diabetics have Sprite Zero? Diet sodas like Sprite Zero are generally considered safe for diabetics in moderation. But most authorities recommend diabetics limit artificial sweeteners, choosing drinks without sweeteners (e.g., water) more often.
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4. Does Sprite Zero Have Caffeine?
Sprite Zero does not contain caffeine. It is not an energy drink. It is not advertised as providing caffeine, and none of the ingredients have caffeine naturally. Sprite Zero should not keep you awake.
5. Is Sprite Zero High in Sodium?
Sprite Zero only has about 35mg of sodium per 12 oz can. This is less than 2% of the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Therefore, Sprite Zero could be considered low in sodium.
Of course, if you drink Sprite Zero all day, you could end up consuming several hundred milligrams of sodium from it. So be mindful if you’re trying to keep your sodium levels in check.
6. Is Sprite Zero Good for Weight Loss?
One of the reasons people choose diet drinks like Sprite Zero is to help them lose weight. But the evidence shows that consuming artificial sweeteners is surprisingly ineffective for weight loss. And they may even lead to weight gain.
One explanation is that artificial sweeteners keep you accustomed to sweet foods. So you still get cravings for sweets, and you end up eating more calories from something else.
The issue may also have something to do with how these sweeteners affect your gut bacteria. But in any case, drinks with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners (like Sprite Zero) may not be the best for weight loss.
But remember: The key to weight loss is your overall diet and calorie balance. Having a can of Sprite Zero will not doom you to gain weight, if the rest of your diet is solid.
If your goal is weight loss, I would recommend just (A) tracking your calories, or (B) following some of these 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories. Then, you can choose to have Sprite Zero or not, depending on your preferences.
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7. Is Sprite Zero Healthier Than Sprite?
Sprite Zero has a similar taste as Sprite, but without the high fructose corn syrup (sugar). For this reason, many people would consider Sprite Zero healthier than regular Sprite. However, Sprite Zero has artificial sweeteners, which come with other possible risks. Therefore, it depends on your priorities and concerns.
Personally, I’d rather drink Sprite Zero than regular Sprite. The sugar in normal Sprite is way too much for me personally. I try to avoid spikes in my blood sugar due to how it affects my acne.
However, I wouldn’t want to drink a lot of Sprite Zero on a regular basis, either. As covered above, it could potentially have a negative effect on my insulin sensitivity, and it could possibly cause other problems eventually.
Neither Sprite Zero nor regular Sprite are really healthy drinks. Drinking something like the Lime flavor of Bubly—a sparkling drink without any sweetener—would be a much healthier option.
8. Is It Bad to Drink Sprite Zero Every Day?
Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable drinking Sprite Zero every day. Why? The main reason is aspartame.
The research into aspartame and depression was what initially convinced me to avoid the ingredient. But there are many possible negative affects, detailed above.
I would personally only have Sprite Zero as an occasional treat.
9. Is Sprite Zero Vegan?
Sprite Zero is generally considered vegan. Technically, it is possible for the natural flavors to be sourced from animal-derived ingredients, but this is not likely.
It’s also possible that someone would say Sprite Zero isn’t vegan is due to animal testing. That’s because the artificial sweeteners used in Sprite Zero (aspartame and acesulfame-K) have been tested on animals extensively in the past.
However, boycotting drinks like Sprite Zero today can’t undo the animal testing that was already done… So, most vegans are okay with consuming these artificial sweeteners.
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