Banta Soda: Is Diet Soda Good For You, Or Just A Loaf Of Fizz?
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Also known as Banta, Goti Soda, Goli Soda, and Fotash Jawl, Banta Soda is an orange- or lemon-flavored carbonated soft drink sold in India since the late 1800s. The carbonated liquid creates pressure by forcing a glass marble into the neck of the bottle, where it snugly locks into a rubber gasket, thus sealing the bottle. Opening this bottle is seen as a fun experience, as it pops when the marble is pressed down. It is sold by bantawallahs in kulhars (small traditional earthen pots). These days, it is sold in glass tumblers and plastic cups.

Served with lemon juice, crushed ice, chaat masala, and black salt, this drink is in high demand in the hot summer months of April and May as an alternative to other traditional drinks like shikanjvi and jaljeera. This drink is popular as "Banta Soda" in Delhi, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. It is popular as "Panneer Soda" in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The drink derives its name from the marble, which is also called goli, goti, banta, kancha, etc. in various languages. Served in the codd neck bottle, this drink was popular in the British colonial empire, especially after the inventor of the Codd neck bottle, Hiram Codd, patented the bottle’s design in 1872. These bottles are still in production only in India and Japan (for ramune). Bottles were imported into India before 1947 and were banned in several cities during the British Raj as Indian revolutionaries would add chuna or calcium hydroxide to make mini cannons.

Fresh fruit juices or commercial flavors are combined with salt and water before being funnelled into the codd-neck bottle. A soda-making machine then grips the bottle firmly in a container, and a nozzle in the machine infuses the bottle with some carbon dioxide and snugly closes the mouth. To seal the marble against the neck of the bottle, the container holding the bottle is rotated three to four times to diffuse the carbon dioxide. These bottles are reusable.

Banta soda is an older iteration of what is today called a diet soda. These artificially sweetened beverages are marketed to diabetics and others who want to reduce their sugar intake as sugar free, zero calorie, or zero sugar. The artificial sweeteners used in diet soda are aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, or Ace-K, cyclamates outside the US, and stevia. These sweeteners usually have a bitter or metallic aftertaste, with the goal of replacing the taste and texture of sucrose with one or more of these non-caloric sweeteners being elusive despite decades of research and development. With a rising demand for "natural" products and health concerns over the side effects of artificial sweeteners, stevia-based sweeteners are becoming popular with manufacturers seeking certain novel phytochemicals. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi introduced their flagship low-calorie versions in 1994. Pepsi released the Pepsi Edge, and Coca-Cola released the Coca-Cola C2. Citing low sales numbers, Pepsi discontinued the sale and manufacture of Edge in 2005, with Coca-Cola soon following by discontinuing theirs.

Despite being marketed as sugar-free, diet sodas in general and those with artificial sweeteners in particular are contentious. Diet soda has no significant nutrition. According to research, artificial sweeteners and excessive consumption of diet soda are contributors to obesity and metabolic syndrome rather than weight loss aids as they are marketed. People tend to drink more of these sodas, considering them to be zero-calorie, triggering a higher intake of sweet and calorie-dense foods and resulting in weight gain. Studies have also linked high diet soda consumption to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic kidney disease, premature childbirth, and childhood obesity.

Following are the risks of consuming diet soda:

1.    Increased risk of osteoporosis, especially in women: The phosphorus and caffeine in cola might interfere with normal calcium absorption.

2.    Tooth decay: Due to their highly acidic pH levels, diet sodas are associated with dental erosion.

3.    Increased risk of type 2 diabetes: Artificial sweeteners in this type of soda are known to alter the gut microbiome, reducing control over blood sugar levels and hence increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

4.    Increased risk of stroke: Because of the increase in heart rate and blood pressure due to the consumption of diet sodas, the chances of blood clots in the brain are high, increasing one’s risk of stroke.

5.    Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases: Artificial sweeteners like aspartame are known to cause congestive heart failure and heart attacks. Other conditions, like increased blood sugar levels and weight gain due to the consumption of diet sodas, also contribute to the development of heart problems.

While drinking a diet soda once in a while or one or two a day won’t adversely affect one’s health, excessive consumption coupled with poor dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle are sure to create problems or compound existing health conditions. Moderation is the key here.