“Diet” Drinks are Not Good for Your Diet
Nov. 4, 2015|212 views
Earlier this year, I reported on news that drinking so-called “diet” soft drinks was actually linked to worse body weight control—not better. Seriously, if you’re still falling for the marketing lies about “diet” soft drinks, you should consider re-evaluating your devotion to these artificially-sweetened beverages. Research has consistently shown that their consumption is linked to worse health and weight outcomes. Some experts have speculated that it has to do with the way these drinks affect metabolism.
Now new research indicates that one way they set you up for failure is by tricking you into believing you can afford to make bad food choices elsewhere in your diet, because you’re already “saving” calories by drinking one of these beverages. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers studied the dietary habits of more than 22,000 people to arrive at that conclusion. People who drink “diet,” low-calorie beverages tended to also consume a greater percentage of “non-nutritious” food. In other words, they loaded up on empty-calorie snacks loaded with fat, sugar and salt.
People who drank alcoholic beverages, or drinks sweetened with sugar, actually tended to eat fewer of these diet-wrecking foods than their diet-soda-sipping peers. "It may be that people who consume diet beverages feel justified in eating more, so they reach for a muffin or a bag of chips," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor, Ruopeng An. "Or perhaps, in order to feel satisfied, they feel compelled to eat more of these high-calorie foods."
Alternatively, people may drink diet drinks because they feel guilty about eating unhealthy foods. "It may be one—or a mix of—these mechanisms," An said. "We don't know which way the compensation effect goes.” Regularly consuming sugar-sweetened beverages is not a winning dietary strategy either. "If people simply substitute diet beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages, it may not have the intended effect because they may just eat those calories rather than drink them," An said. "We'd recommend that people carefully document their caloric intake from both beverages and discretionary foods because both of these add calories—and possibly weight—to the body."
The bottom line? Thrown out your sodas—diet or otherwise—and start drinking good old water.
Ruopeng An, PhD. Beverage Consumption in Relation to Discretionary Food Intake and Diet Quality among U.S. Adults, 2003-2012. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, September 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.08.009