In an effort to control weight gain, many Americans abandon their favorite sugary soft drinks for diet ones. Each 12-ounce soda can score up to 140 calories, while most diet drinks add 0 calories to our daily total. But a new study of existing research published in the Journal PLOS Medicine suggests diet soda gives consumers no advantage in their efforts to slim down, and may even be more harmful than sugary sodas.
The research, led by the Imperial College London, looked at existing evidence of health concerns from drinking both sugar-sweetened beverages and artificially sweetened beverages worldwide. They found that even though diet soda is consistently marketed as being healthier than regular soda, there is “convincing” evidence that drinking diet soft drinks increases the risk of being overweight and possibly, developing diabetes. The authors write that the diet drinks may “stimulate sweet receptors – which could theoretically increase appetite, induce preference for sweet taste…and result in overconsumption of solid foods.”
“This study is more evidence that drinking any soda – regular or diet – can make it difficult to manage our weight and blood sugar levels,” said Melissa Page, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at the Weight and Wellness Center at Tufts Medical Center. “We do not obtain any essential nutrients from soda. And there is some evidence diet soda can leave you feeling unsatisfied and could lead to eating more of other foods.”
The study points out that much of the research on sugary beverages has been funded by the soft drink industry itself. The researchers say more study is needed, designed and funded by more objective sources, to sort out the truth about diet drinks.
In the meantime, Page says water is the better choice of beverage when trying to drop some pounds.
“If you don’t like plain water, try adding some fruit or flavorings. Sliced lemons, limes or berries can add some natural sweetness,” she suggested.
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