Can We Drink Diet Soda and Not Gain Weight?

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A recent study was written about in Time magazine, earlier this week. It stated that diet soda caused more belly fat. From the article:

“People who drank diet soda gained almost triple the abdominal fat over nine years as those who didn’t drink diet soda. The study analyzed data from 749 people ages 65 and older who were asked, every couple of years, how many cans of soda they drank a day, and how many of those sodas were diet or regular.”

According to Dr. Freedhoff, a doctor who is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa, Author of The Diet Fix and founder of Ottawa’s non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute the study is flawed.

He states that linking diet soda consumption to weight gain and increased abdominal circumference was missing a few key controls in the study. He counters that the media and articles written about this study left out an important piece: the diet these people followed was not consistent, the only consistency was drinking the soda.

What does it mean?

Dr. Freedhoff explains how  these people could have gained weight by drinking diet soda, because, he estimates, they may also eat more high-calorie foods. Some of us think we can eat french fries or have something equally indulgent, as long as we have a diet soda. It could be that these people thought they were protected somehow from gaining weight, because the diet soda would cancel out those extra calories (since they are not indulging in full calorie soda).

Should we indulge?

There have been several studies conducted about the safety of the chemical ingredients in a diet soda. Some of them have been linked to the possibility of causing cancer, among other unpleasant affects. Many who drink diet soda find their cravings for sweeter foods also increases, which is not good for overall weight maintenance.

Prevention magazine claims there is an 11-year-long Harvard Medical School study of more than 3,000 women, researchers found that diet cola is associated with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline. Kidney function started declining when women drank more than two sodas a day. The study concluded it was ‘more than likely’ the artificial sweeteners, which were the issue.

Nothing has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that drinking diet soda is bad for anyone, but if we are trying to take care of our mind, body and overall health in the most optimum way, there are far better beverage choices we can all make. Choosing water or other beverages, which have no additives or possible health risks should weigh into our decisions.

Here are some links below, which talk about the risk of artificial sweeteners and studies on how it may affect risk of diabetes in men.

  1. Artificial sweeteners and cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners. .
  2. Use of nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112:739.
  3. Nonnutritive sweeteners: Current use and health perspectives. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Circulation. 2012;126:509.
  4. de Koning L, et al. Sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverage consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011;93:1321.
  5. Common questions about diet and cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/EatHealthyGetActive/ACSGuidelinesonNutritionPhysicalActivityforCancerPrevention/acs-guidelines-on-nutrition-and-physical-activity-for-cancer-prevention-common-questions.
  6. Water versus diet soda for best weight loss results. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20737/full