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Diet Soda: Does it Help or Hinder Weight Loss?

July 21, 2014

Aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine - all words that might sound scary or confusing to you. This might be because of the controversial and health-conscious debates that have surrounded artificial sweeteners, otherwise known as non-nutritive sweeteners, over the years. Name brands you may be more familiar with include Equal, Splenda, and Sweet’N Low (the blue, yellow, and pink packets, respectively). The most recently explored question in research and in the media regarding diet soda is whether drinking artificially sweetened bubbly beverages helps or hinders weight loss efforts (1). One study published in the Journal of Obesity in May 2014 reported more weight loss for individuals drinking diet soda compared to the group that drank water, sparking heated discussions and perpetuating more confusion (2). Here we will discuss both the pros and cons of consuming non-nutritive sweeteners when also adhering to a weight loss regimen.

Theoretically, consuming artificial sweeteners instead of calorie-laden sugar would help an individual lose weight because they are cutting back on calories. As we know, consuming less calories while increasing physical activity as part of an overall healthy lifestyle can lead to weight loss. The concern regarding intake of artificial sweeteners is whether or not consumption increases a person’s appetite. Animal subject studies and other human observational research have reported that consumption of artificial sweeteners is linked to an overall increase in food intake as opposed to consuming foods and beverages sweetened with real sugar. These findings suggest that non-nutritive sweeteners are appetite enhancing (3-5). Further research is needed to explain why this might occur, however, artificial sweeteners are unable to satisfy the mind’s cravings in the same way that real sugar does. Because artificial sweeteners don’t provide the body with any substantial amount of calories, consumption may increase an individual’s appetite. The evidence is not conclusive enough to link non-nutritive sweeteners as appetite promoting agents. Conversely, other studies have found no link between weight gain and artificial sweetener intake (6, 7) as well as the study mentioned above from the Journal of Obesity that found diet soda potentially helpful for weight loss (2). Despite the fact that the FDA has deemed artificial sweeteners safe food additives for human consumption, there is still a lack of long-term, evidence-based research that investigates the effects of artificial sweeteners on our health. Learn more about Artificial Sweeteners in our other articles, HERE & HERE.

So far, it appears that no evidence strongly suggests diet soda either increases or decreases the efficacy of a weight loss plan. If you enjoy a diet soda, enjoy one from time to time. When it comes to quenching your thirst, however, there is no replacement for water. Remember, though, that both sugar and artificial sweeteners should be consumed minimally and in moderation. If you need to seek assistance in reducing your consumption of sweetened beverages, consult a dietitian.

Happy Drinking!

Alexandria Wolz, Cooperative Intern for:

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