When you’re trying to lose weight or keep off extra pounds, can diet soda help? While it has fewer calories than regular soda, some studies show it fuels your sweet tooth. Which means it makes you crave sweet foods or drinks. It’s one more way the food industry has to try to keep you wanting more.
Also, are artificially sweetened sodas good for your health? Several studies this year continue the debate. My personal feelings is that the chemicals used to make artificial sweeteners can’t be good for you. The Food And Drug Administration has the same old reasoning for allowing it, “It’s such a small amount, it won’t hurt you.” Of course, if you drink six a day, then it’s not a small amount any more is it.
Earlier this year, in January, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that overweight and obese people who drink diet sodas tend to eat more calories during meals and from snacks throughout the day than those who drink sugary beverages, including regular soda. In adults with a healthy weight, the opposite was true: Those who drank sweetened beverages ate more than those who drank diet sodas.
Contrast this with a study published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It compared people who were randomly selected to swap their regular sodas for either water or diet drinks. The researchers found that both groups ate fewer calories and “showed positive changes in dietary patterns.” In fact, the diet-drink group ate fewer desserts by the end of the study than the water group, while the water group ate more fruits and vegetables.“Diet beverages have been shown to be an effective tool as part of an overall weight-management plan,” the American Beverage Association says. “Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of diet beverages – as well as low-calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages – in helping to reduce calorie intake. Losing or maintaining weight comes down to balancing the total calories consumed with those burned through physical activity.”
On Sept. 17, a study in the journal Nature suggested artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar levels more than sugar itself by altering gut bacteria, potentially leading to diabetes. Industry groups, however, argued that the small number of mice and people studied make the findings hard to apply to larger populations.
Artificial Sweeteners and Other Possible Health Concerns
So, do diet drinks ease the urge for other sweets? Goran believes the opposite may be true. He worries that no matter what sweetener is used — sugar or a substitute — the result may be a continued demand for more sweets.
“As a society, we have created a new norm of sweetness,” Goran says. “We’ve become accustomed to high levels of sweetness.” One hundred years ago, people would add sugar only if they wanted sweet drinks like coffee with sugar, tea with sugar or Lemonade, but today in the grocery store we have isles full of sweet drinks. Some carbonated, some are sweet water and the most popular are juices.
By continuing to drink diet sodas or other sweet drinks, he speculates, “you still desire sweetness. You haven’t disentangled yourself from craving something sweet.”
“People like a sweet taste, and if you take it away from beverages, then they’ll probably consume more sweet calories from food,” he says. “But that’s just a speculation.”
The food industry is the biggest culprit in the battle to control your weight. They wanted to make people dependent on more food and the way to do that was to add extra sugar and salt to everything creating a dependency on salt and sugar. Then as time pasted, the food industry came up with chemical substitutes and artificial sweeteners and convinced the government that the small amounts of chemical they used in your food or drinks wouldn’t harm you. Of course, we have Cancer today in millions of people and why do you think that is?
As a pediatrician, Goran’s particularly concerned about artificial sweeteners. He says we don’t yet know what long-term effects they may have on children’s development. Other studies also raise concerns.
Findings presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology suggest a link between drinking diet soda and a greater risk of heart attack among otherwise healthy, postmenopausal women. The researchers are quick to point out, though, that they can’t explain the relationship and more study is needed.
Finally, a study in the journal General Dentistry contends that drinking a lot of soda — both diet and regular — can severely damage teeth. But in this case, it’s not the sweetener that’s the culprit. The acid in the soda, coupled with bad oral hygiene, caused the decay.
To Drink or Not to Drink Diet Soda?
“They don’t cause weight gain, but we don’t know yet if they really help with weight loss,” says Blake, who’s a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University. “They can be a part of a weight loss program, but they are not going to magically help you lose weight.”
Goran and Blake advise soda drinkers to gradually move away from sweetened beverages altogether. Blake recommends naturally flavored, no-calorie fizzy water. Goran says his kids like their lemonade heavily watered down with seltzer.
“Ultimately,” Goran says, “it’s probably healthier not to drink sweetened beverages.”
Wow, someone actually said it. Dieters don’t always realize how many calories are in drinks and often don’t count those calories. In reality, it’s easy to drink more calories than you eat.