Do diet drinks make you eat more?

January 16, 2014 by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Do diet drinks make you eat more?
Study finds link between greater calorie consumption and low-calorie beverages in overweight adults.

(HealthDay)—Overweight adults often turn to diet beverages to help them slim down, but this tactic might backfire, new research suggests.

Compared to people who drink sweetened beverages, heavy people with a habit actually consume more daily calories from food, the study finds.

"Diet-soda drinkers who are overweight or obese are eating more solid food during the day than overweight and obese people who drink sugary beverages," said study researcher Sara Bleich, associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In order to lose weight, the -soda drinkers need to cut back on their meals and snacks, according to the study, which was published online Jan. 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Earlier research might help explain the findings, Bleich said. It's thought that the artificial sweeteners used in the diet drinks may disrupt the brain's sweet sensors, she said.

"If you consume artificial sweeteners, it makes the brain think you are less satiated or full, and as a result you eat more," she said.

The American Beverage Association, the trade group representing soda manufacturers, disagrees with the study's findings.

"Diet beverages have been shown to be an effective tool as part of an overall weight-management plan," the association said in a statement Thursday. "Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of diet beverages—as well as low-calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages—in helping to reduce calorie intake."

Losing or maintaining weight, the association said, involves balancing the total calories consumed with those burned through physical activity. This study, the ABA said, looked only at one 24-hour period and didn't ask about physical-activity levels.

The study of nearly 24,000 U.S. adults also found that normal-weight adults who drank artificially sweetened beverages consumed fewer calories than normal-weight adults who drank regular sweetened drinks. Bleich said she can't explain why normal-weight people don't appear to eat more calories.

For the study, which was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bleich used information from the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that asked about dietary habits over the previous 24 hours. Bleich looked at national patterns in diet-beverage habits, sugary-drink consumption and caloric intake by body-weight category.

The researchers found that twice as many drink diet soda as normal-weight adults. Overall, 11 percent of normal-weight, 19 percent of overweight and 22 percent of obese adults drink diet beverages.

Overweight people who reported drinking diet beverages took in 88 more calories a day from solid food than those who drank sugary beverages, the researchers found. And obese participants who drank diet drinks consumed nearly 200 more calories a day from food than obese men and women who drank sugary drinks.

Meanwhile, the normal-weight adults who drank diet soda got 73 fewer daily calories from food, while the normal-weight people who drank sugary drinks added 46 calories a day from food.

The study doesn't prove that drinking low-calorie beverages leads to eating more. Also among the study's limitations is that people self-reported their intake, said Alice Lichtenstein, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston. Lichtenstein was not involved in the study.

"Drawing conclusions from self-reported food and beverage intake data is challenging, particularly because we know normal-weight and overweight people report with different levels of accuracy," she said.

The study results didn't surprise Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University.

Swithers, who had no part in the study, said animal research has found that disrupt basic learning processes. Sometimes sweet tastes predict caloric intake, as when sugar is eaten. With , however, no calories arrive with the sweet taste.

Studies in people have found that the brains of diet-soda drinkers respond differently to sugar than the brains of those who don't drink , Swithers said. "It's as if the experience with diet soda has made the meaning of sweet tastes confusing or unpredictable," she said.

The health experts agreed on one point, however: The findings aren't a reason to go back to regular soda or to drink more of it if you haven't given it up.

"Instead, the goal should be to reduce consumption of sweeteners altogether," Swithers said.

Lichtenstein agreed. "The best option is always water," she said.

Explore further: Study: Confusion surrounds added vs. natural sugar in drinks

More information: To learn more about alternatives to sugary drinks, visit the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Related Stories

Study: Confusion surrounds added vs. natural sugar in drinks

December 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Consumers who are more concerned about what types of sugars are in their drinks will likely choose a less-sweetened beverage, although most people don't know the difference between natural and added sugars, ...

Obese women alter diets in response to additional calories from soft drinks

October 28, 2013
Obese women voluntarily reduce what they eat in response to additional soft drinks being added to their diets – a new 4 week study finds.

Black students drink more soda when available at school

May 15, 2013
The availability of sugar-sweetened or diet soda in schools does not appear to be related to students' overall consumption, except for African-American students, who drink more soda when it's available at school, finds a ...

Carbonation alters the mind's perception of sweetness

September 17, 2013
Carbonation, an essential component of popular soft drinks, alters the brain's perception of sweetness and makes it difficult for the brain to determine the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners, according to ...

The dark side of artificial sweeteners

July 10, 2013
More and more Americans are consuming artificial sweeteners as an alternative to sugar, but whether this translates into better health has been heavily debated. An opinion article published by Cell Press on July 10th in the ...

Could kids' salt intake affect their weight?

December 10, 2012
(HealthDay)—Children who eat a lot of salty food also tend to down more sugary drinks—which, in turn, might be related to their risk of obesity, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bmorrow492
not rated yet Feb 21, 2014
"Diet-soda drinkers who are overweight or obese are eating more solid food during the day than overweight and obese people who drink sugary beverages"

Well, DUH! My mother told me long ago that drinking sugary drinks would spoil my appetite. Of course people drinking sugar eat less.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.