According to a U.S. study, diet soda drinkers don't eat any more sugary or fatty foods than people who stick with water instead.
Some researchers have proposed that drinks sweetened with artificial sugars might disrupt hormones involved in hunger and satiety cures, causing people to eat more. Others hypothesized that diet beverages could boost the drinker's preference for sweet tastes, translating to more munching on high-calorie treats.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at 318 overweight or obese adults in North Carolina, all of whom said they consumed at least 280 calories' worth of drinks each day.
One third of the participants were advised to substitute at least two daily servings of sugary beverages with water. Another third was instructed to substitute diet drinks, including Diet Coke and Diet Lipton Tea.
After three and six months, people reported their food and beverage intake on two different days in detail. A previous publication showed that participants in both groups lost weight.
According to the new report, water and diet beverage drinkers reduced their average daily calories relative to the start of the study, from between 2,000 and 2,300 calories to 1,500 to 1,800 calories. At both time points, people in the two groups were eating a similar amount of total calories, carbohydrates, fat and sugar.
Six months in, the only differences were that members of the water group ate more fruit and vegetables, and people randomized to diet beverages ate fewer desserts, compared to their diet habits at the study's onset.
In addition, a French study, which appeared in the same journal, found that Frenchwomen who drank beverages sweetened with either real or fake sugar were more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes over 14 years than those who stuck with water.
The researchers said that everyone in her study was heavy and trying to lose weight, so the findings may not apply to normal-weight people who drink a lot of diet beverages.
Their results led them to feel that diet drinks can be consumed in moderation, along with other beverages such as water, coconut water and sparkling water.
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