Overweight adults who think drinking diet soft drinks will help them lose or keep weight off should think again. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that overweight and obese adults who drink diet beverages actually consume more calories from food than obese or overweight adults who drink regular soft drinks or other sugary beverages.
People who were overweight or obese generally consumed the same amount of calories a day no matter what they drank, but those who chose diet drinks got more of those calories from food.
Outside experts were quick to caution that it is not clear what role, if any, diet drinks such as low- or no-calorie versions of soft drinks, sports drinks and teas played for people who ate more.
Using data from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers looked at national patterns in adult diet beverage consumption and caloric intake by body weight status.
Consumption of diet soft drinks has increased from 3% in 1965 to 20% today. Individuals who drink diet drinks typically have a higher BMI (body mass index) and consume more snack foods than those who drink sugary beverages.
Earlier research suggests that artificial sweeteners, which are present in diet pop, are associated with a greater activation of reward centers in the brain, thus altering the reward a person experiences from sweet tastes. In other words, among people who drink diet soft drinks, the brain's sweet sensors may no longer provide a reliable gauge of energy (calorie) consumption because the artificial sweetener disrupts appetite control. As a result, consumption of diet drinks may result in increased food intake overall.
It’s also possible people could decide to to eat more since they are saving calories by consuming diet – versus regular – drinks.
Critics said it is too early to say what, if any, role the low-calorie drinks or their artificial sweeteners play in weight loss. Several researchers noted that the study did not track a group of people over time; rather it only looked at a 24-hour snapshot of what any individual consumed.
Source: American Journal of Public Health, January 16, 2014.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.