Diet soft drinks have been around for decades. You would expect them to help people lose weight. But the world’s obesity epidemic is just getting worse. There are many factors that lead to weight gain, but could the consumption of diet drinks, which have far less calories than sugary beverages, actually be a negative factor?
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University reviewed the eating and drinking habits of 24,000 adults. They divided them into three groups: normal-weight, overweight, and obese. Diet beverage consumption looked like this:
- 11% of normal-weight people consumed diet beverages
- 19% of overweight
- 22% of obese
Next, the researchers compared total caloric intake of each of the three groups. Normal-weight people who consumed diet drinks consumed less total calories per day compared to normal-weight people who consumed sugary drinks. This would be an expected result. For overweight adults, the results were surprising. Drinking diet drinks increased caloric intake by 91 calories. For obese adults, the increase was 161 calories!
Please note, the study has its limitations. It is based on 24-hour recall, meaning participants list everything they consumed in the previous day. They may forget things. These types of studies are prone to inaccuracies. However, they are used often, and they do tend to provide qualitative indications, even if they are not accurate.
But back to diet drinks. There is a growing scientific body of evidence that artificial sweeteners cross some wires in our brain-body communication. Our taste buds sense sweet and messages are sent to the digestive system to expect sugar. When none arrives, confusion ensues. This may lead to a “request” for more energy from other sources, such as solid food.
Bottom line: sugary drinks or diet drinks are not something to be consumed regularly if you want to lose weight, or to keep from gaining. How about water?