Monday, August 9, 2010

Does Diet Soda Make You Fat?

Are you one of those people that have a diet soda with your meals and think you are being healthy? Perhaps you have sworn off regular soda in recent years because of the high calorie and sugar content you know those beverages are laden with. Maybe you want to lose some weight and have switched to diet soda believing you are doing your waistline a favor? The fact is that diet soda has become a staple amongst people who live healthy lifestyles and who watch what they eat. I mean, it is even a staple amongst those who aren't on diets... ever see those people walking out of McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant with a super sized hamburger and fries and a diet coke? It's about as confusing as Kirsty Alley giving weight loss advice. But even though diet sodas are consumed in large quantities in the belief that it contains no calories, recent research shows that it could be actually working against us and may actually be making us fat! That's right, recent research shows that even half a can a day increases your risk of obesity. Let's take a look at why that may be the case.

We all know regular soda is bad for us. Plain and simple. If you are still drinking the stuff, I personally think you should order your meal with a side of diabetes because you are drinking more than 10 teaspoons of sugar. Yes, that's right, 10 teaspoons. Soda generally contains anywhere from 35 - 40 grams of sugar per can or small bottle, and 4 grams makes up a teaspoon. Scary huh? It's the equivalent of eating over 80 M & Ms or 31 gummy bears. Not only that, but the type of sugar that they use in soda is generally high fructose corn syrup which in recent studies shows it tends to bypass the body's natural process of burning it for energy, and gets stored straight on your hips and thighs, meaning you can kiss those dreams of fitting into that bathing suit goodbye...

Diet Soda on the other hand contains no sugar, but gets it sweetness from various chemicals or artificial sweeteners, one of the most popular ones used being aspartame which has little to no calories and acts as a sugar substitute. Now there is so much information out there about the side effects of aspartame, some claim it can cause anxiety and depression, others that it can even cause a range of cancers. I'm not going to go into those claims in this post, however we are going to look into why some people believe that it is indeed this artificial sugar, and others, that may be one of the causes that diet soda could actually be making you fat.

A recent study by The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, took 1550 test subjects, some over weight, some not, and examined the relationship between soda consumption and weight gain. Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, who lead the 8 year study said "What didn't surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity. What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher". In fact they concluded that for every can or bottle of diet soda that was consumed each day, a participant's risk of being overweight was increased by a whopping 41%. Makes you rethink that diet coke with your salad huh?

About a third of the 622 out of the 1550 participants who commenced the study at a normal weight, ended up becoming obese or overweight. Further to this, the increased risk of becoming overweight or obese for diet soda drinkers was:

- 36.5% increase for every 1/2 can of diet soda consumed each day
- 37.5% increase for every 1/2 to 1 can of diet soda each day
- 54.5% Increase for every 1 - 2 cans of diet soda each day
- 57.1% Increased risk for more than 2 cans of diet soda each day

So what is it in the diet soda that causes weight gain? Well Fowler said that it may not be what's in the diet soda, but in fact what is linked to the consumption of it. What does this mean exactly? Well it could mean a few things which are suspected but haven't yet been confirmed.

One belief is that the artificial sweeteners confuse our bodies and palates. Our bodies taste something sweet and believe it is going to be getting some calories, but when it doesn't it craves what it was expecting and leads us to over eat or consume those wanted calories from other sources.

Another theory is that because people consume a low calorie beverage, they believe they can therefore compensate by eating a little more. "It's ok to get the fries with the burger because I am drinking a diet soda"...

A Purdue University Study where rats fed with artificial sweeteners actually gained more weight, than rats that were fed a diet containing regular sugar. One hypothesis from this study was that the chemical sweeteners may actually alter your body's physiological response by slowing down metabolism. What's more alarming is that these rats weren't just fed straight chemicals; they fed them via artificially sweetened yogurt, raising questions as to whether it may not be just diet sodas that could be causing weight gain, but indeed many other chemically sweetened diet foods also.

But before you go running back to the vending machine to throw in some quarters for a full strength soda, don't forget that it too was undeniably linked to weight gain and obesity. Not only that but there are other non weight related side effects of consuming soda, regular or diet, that can interfere with your fitness goals:

- Causes dehydration: Spending lots of money on creatine supplements in hopes of building your biceps? Your soda may make all that money spent completely worthless
- Osteoporosis: Too much soda is known to suck the calcium out of your bones, leaving them weak and more prone to osteoporosis.
- Tooth Decay: The sugar and chemicals in soda has been linked with tooth decay. What's more is that it can eat away at your tooth enamel, and once that's gone there is no getting it back.
- Caffeine: Anxiety, depression, insomnia... the list of consuming too much caffeine is endless
- Internal Corrosion: It's not just your teeth that get decayed. The chemicals and acids, namely carbonic acid that gives your soda it's bubbles, can eat away at your stomach and digestive linings leading to an array of health issues.
- Heart Burn: It always amazes me when I see people eat junk food and then follow it down with Pepto Bismol. Turns out soda is also a cause of heart burn in some individuals
- Liver and Kidney Damage: Soda has been linked to cirrhosis of the liver and kidney stones and damage.

So what's a healthy boy or girl to do who enjoys drinking soda? Well in my opinion the outlook is bleak. I gave up drinking diet soda a while ago, not because I thought it would make me fat (although now that's just another reason) but for the pure fact that it is simply a cup full of chemicals. Chemicals that our bodies were not meant to consume or digest. And while the research as to whether these chemicals are actually bad for us is lacking, I would rather not run the risk. If you are wanting to lose some weight, or living a healthy lifestyle, then ditch the soda. You wont miss it, and your body will thank you for it.

Healthy Boy x


  1. What about Spleda? I avoid Equal and Sweet & Low understanding the concerns with aspartame and saccarine. What do you know about Splenda? Would you in the end just suggest regular sugar for say, coffee? Or just forget about sweeting all together?

  2. I avoid using Equal and Sweet&Low based on what I know about aspartame and sacarin. What about Splenda? Would you suggest using plain sugar for say, coffee? Or just forget about sweetening all together?

  3. What about the diet soft drinks made by Zevia? with Stevia and Erithritol Sugar alcohol? They are quite yummy and there's one called Dr. Zevia which tastes very much like Diet Dr. Pepper.

  4. I have to say, I have never really been much for dieting, but I used to drink quite a bit of pop, with almost every meal. Moving to another country helped me kick my pop addiction. I think part of the problem is that people are really just looking for something fizzy with their dinner. It's way more common to have a bottle of carbonated water, usually with lemon, here. I really enjoy the fizz, and there's not nearly the number of chemicals.

    It's also fairly hard to find restaurants that serve carbonated water back in the states.

  5. I am SO glad that I don't drink sodas...

  6. I gave up drinking sodas in Dec 2008. The closest I've had since is some sparling juices from Trader Joes. Not missing them one bit.

  7. I've given up sweet sodas and replaced it with club soda and lime or mineral water. I realized that I really loved the cold, bubbly drink, but I can get in a healthier way.

  8. Dr. Ludwig’s research in ‘Artificially Sweetened Beverages – Cause for Concern’ is interesting reading on the subject of aspartame and diet soda. He makes the point that – “overstimulation of sugar receptors by frequent consumption of hyper-intense sweeteners may cause taste preferences to remain in, or revert to, an infantile state (ie, with limited tolerance for more complex tastes).”

    He also suggests that by using artificial sweeteners we may be, in effect, training ourselves to find healthy foods, with their more complex flavors, unpalatable.

    Essentially, eating and drinking aspartame sweetened foods and drinks could be training our taste buds response to flavors back to an infantile state, where everything we eat and drink has to be sweet, sweet, sweet. How long do you think it takes us to get fat eating like that?


You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...