Theresa Rowley turned 104 on New Year’s Day 2018. She’s as surprised as anyone by her unusual longevity, but unlike most everyone else, she thinks she found the explanation. For the past 36 years, she has been drinking at least one can of Diet Coke each day. Understandably, scientists conducting studies on diet sodas would beg to differ.
Just to put things into perspective, Diet Coke came on the market when Theresa Rowley was 68 years old. Ever since, she’s been a big fan of the drink, and she seems to be in good health. However, a multitude of studies presented in recent years, including one by researchers at the University of Yale, have linked diet soda consumption with increased risks of stroke and diabetes. In fact, diet soda is arguably worse than the regular, sugar-filled fizzy drinks. That is because the artificial sweeteners used to make it have no natural equivalent. The human metabolism ends up being very confused by these chemicals.
One of the clearest mechanisms triggered is the production of insulin in the pancreas, which is signaled by consuming sweet things. Insulin breaks down natural sugars, including glucose, fructose and such. But aspartame and saccharine are quite different chemicals, and the body ends up producing far more insulin than required. Messing up the balance of these metabolic systems is a quick path to diabetes, and other ailments.
Scientific studies also show that adults who partake in the pleasure of diet soda regularly are also three times more likely to suffer dementia or strokes. These correlations do not actually show up when studying regular soda (although by no means should you assume that regular Coke is safer than the sugar-free versions; it’s just as vile for your body, only for different reasons).
We of course wish Theresa Rowley all the best, and many happy returns, but it must be said that it’s far more likely that she’s been living such a long life in spite of her Diet Coke habit, than because of it.