Is diet soda making you fat?

Forget the idea that diet soda is a good alternative to the regular stuff if you're trying to lose weight.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health reveals that overweight or obese adults who regularly drink diet soda end up consuming more calories than overweight adults who drink regular soda or other sugary drinks.

Compensation, satiety cues

Why would diet soda be associated with eating more? It has to do with compensatory behaviors and hunger cues, according to Sara Bleich, PhD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

"Although overweight and obese adults who drink diet soda eat a comparable amount of total calories as heavier adults who drink sugary beverages, they consume significantly more calories from solid food at both meals and snacks," Bleich said.

If they drink diet soda, adults may be prone to consume more calories at meal times because they think they've "earned" them by opting for calorie-free drinks.

Another explanation is that the artificial sweeteners found in most diet drinks can interfere with hunger and satiety cues, leaving the taste buds temporarily satisfied but later wreaking havoc on appetite control. Essentially, artificial sweeteners trick the brain into thinking something calorically dense has been consumed, when in fact it hasn't.

A growing problem

The study, which used data from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), found that consumption of diet soda has increased from 3 percent in 1965 to about 20 percent today. Researchers noted that diet soda drinkers tend to have a higher body mass index and consume more snack foods than people who drink regular soda.

"The results of our study suggest that overweight and obese adults looking to lose or maintain their weight – who have already made the switch from sugary to diet beverages – may need to look carefully at other components of their solid-food diet, particularly sweet snacks, to potentially identify areas for modification," said Bleich.

Source: Science Daily

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