Can Diet Sodas Cause More Weight Gain Than Regular Soda?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new study is making a more disturbing claim. It finds that drinking diet sodas may actually cause a number of health problems.

For years there’s been debate about whether drinking diet soda is better for you than drinking regular ones with sugar.

Even though there is more awareness of the negative effects of diet soda, people are drinking more of it. Consumption of these drinks has skyrocketed over the last 25 years.

Diet sodas contain sugar substitutes like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Susie Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue University, just completed what is known as a review study.

That means she looked at several recent studies that examined the effects of drinking diet soft drinks over the long term and from that reached a conclusion. She found that people who drank those artificially-sweetened sodas were more likely to gain weight than those who drank regular pop.

She also found evidence that those who drank diet soda had twice the risk of developing something called “metabolic syndrome,” which is a precursor to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Many of the studies suggest that diet soda may be just as bad for your health as regular soft drinks.

Registered dietitian for HealthEast in St. Paul, Beth Dierkhising, described what’s called “metabolic confusion,” which is what can happen to your body when you drink a lot of soda.

“What happens is your taste buds taste the sweetness that is coming in, therefore the body thinks ‘oh, sugar,’ but actually it is not. You are creating confusion in your body, where it is getting something that tastes like sugar but it is not sustaining energy like sugar would. Therefore you end up craving sugar later on in the day,” Dierkhising said.

Dierkhising recommended trying carbonated water that is not sweetened or regular water that has a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

But there are those who stand by diet sodas being a good option, if you are trying to lose weight.

The American Beverage Association represents the non-alcoholic drinks industry. It responded to this study by saying it’s an “opinion piece and not a scientific study.” The association maintains that low-calorie sweeteners are “a safe and effective tool in weight loss.”

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