Coca-Cola, once dubbed “America’s Favorite Drink,” has seen a decline in consumption over the years, as good old-fashioned water has earned the top spot as the most popular drink in America. On average, 44 gallons of soda are consumed a year, whereas the average amount of water people drink is approximately 58 gallons a year due to the rise of bottled water in the U.S., reports USA Today. Carbonated soft drinks sales have steadily declined since the late 1990s and continue to see a downward spiral.

Doctors and government officials have warned Americans on the detrimental health effects of soft drinks, which have been linked to the nation’s obesity epidemic. With more than one-third of the U.S. population classified as obese, sugary drinks have received ridicule as being one of the main culprits of this nationwide problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

The Coca-Cola Company is now fighting against these claims in a new print ad launched today in all issues of USA Today in the Atlanta region, followed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday, and the Chicago Tribune next week, reports USA Today. The ad is said to be under the headline "Quality Products You Can Always Feel Good About," suggesting to consumers that the artificial sweeteners in Coca-Cola diet drinks are beneficial and even safe.

But is Coca-Cola right?

Read more: 4 Dangerous Effects Of Artificial Sweeteners On Your Health

Artificial Sweeteners In Soda

Drinks that contain low- and no-calorie artificial sweeteners are designed to cut back the calories and sugars found in regular drinks. Caren Pasquale Seckler, Coca-Cola's Vice President of Social Commitment, claims the ads are meant to raise awareness that these diet sweeteners have been rigorously tested as “safe and beneficial in weight management.”

However, artificial sweeteners, whether they derive from herbs or sugar itself, have proven to be intense sweeteners because they are significantly much sweeter than regular sugar, says Mayo Clinic. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated the sweeteners as food additives and reviews and approves them for sale, these alleged “weight-controlling additives” are found to do more harm than good for your health.

Recent findings published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism show that consumers of diet soda are likely to suffer from the same health issues as those who consume regular soda. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, among others, are the primary illnesses caused by continued consumption of artificial sweeteners. Karen Congro, nutritionist and director of the Wellness for Life Club program at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, told USA Today that artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks can cause the brain to react by sending out insulin that can actually make people hungrier and crave sugar.

The infamous diet sweetener aspartame raises concern in the health community as Coca-Cola aims to refute negative claims about this key ingredient.

Read more: Dopamine Diet: Naturally Control Hunger Cravings And Boost Weight Loss

Aspartame: is it good or bad for your health?

Aspartame, the artificial sugar sweetener, has been a subject of controversy for the Coca-Cola Company, who released a fact sheet on the ingredient earlier this month to inform bottlers that the sweetener is present in gum, pudding, and desserts, says ABC News. The company has even gone a step further to show the medical community that aspartame is completely safe for consumption in sugary drinks.

The American Cancer Society says that most studies on people who consume aspartame have not been able to link the artificial sweetener to an increased risk of cancer — one of the most highlighted fears of the ingredient. However, the long-term effects of the artificial sweetener have yet to be adequately examined.

"Despite claims from Coke and other companies about the safety of aspartame, we still don't know about its long-term effects," said Congro to USA Today. The continued use of artificial sweeteners will contribute to spontaneous cravings for sweets, potentially leading to obesity and poor eating habits, according to Congro.

Read more: 5 Common Chewing Gum Ingredients That Can Cause Cancer