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Don’t Expect Quick Weight Loss From Diet Soda, Say Researchers

By on July 14, 2013
Switched from regular soda to diet soda to lose weight? Chances are you’re doing more harm than good, according to researchers from Purdue University.

The study, which was published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, reviewed over 10 studies that looked at the effects of diet soda on certain health outcomes, such as weight loss.

They found that those who made the switch to diet soda still suffered from the same health effects commonly associated with regular soda beverages, even though these diet beverages contained no calories.

“Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health,” says Susan Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientist and author of the study. “But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect.”

But how? Swithers believes the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, such as aspartame, confuses the body by pretending to be real sugar–but when you do consume sugar, the body doesn’t know how to respond. As a result, it doesn’t release the hormone necessary to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.

And, of course, there’s another unwanted side effect: More weight gain. According to the study, diet soda drinkers were more likely to weigh more than those who did not drink it.

Clearly, switching to diet doesn’t pay off–at least as far as your waistline is concerned.

“The taste of sweet does cause the release of insulin, which lowers blood sugar,” says Dr. Melina Jampolis, a CNN diet and fitness expert. “And if carbohydrates are not consumed, it causes a drop in blood sugar, which triggers hunger and cravings for sugar.”

This in turn means that diet soda can trigger cravings for more carbohydrate-rich foods, such as cake, cookies, or pasta–foods that aren’t exactly low in calories.

So if Diet Soda Isn’t the Key, What is?

The evidence is clear: If you drink diet soda, you’re probably not going to lose weight. So what’s a better way to approach your weight loss plan?

“For adults trying to wean themselves from sugary soda, diet soda may be the beverage equivalent of a nicotine patch: something to be used in small amounts, for a short time, just until you kick the habit,” says the Harvard School of Public Health. “What’s sorely lacking in the beverage marketplace is a middle ground–drink for people who want just a little bit of sweetness, but don’t want too much sugar, and want to shy away from artificial sweeteners or stevia because of health concerns.”

So what’s best? Experts recommend switching to something lightly sweetened, such as green tea sweetened with honey or naturally sweetened fruit juice, such as Odwalla. On the upside, these beverages don’t contain artificial sweeteners and contain more nutrients than diet soda.

There are still downside, however: over-consumption can still lead to an excess of calories, which won’t help you lose weight.

The key then? Simple: moderation, and a lot of water. Sweetened beverages should only be an occasional, not frequent, habit.

Readers: What are your favorite beverages to sip on during a diet?

Sources:
Diet Soda May Do More Harm than GoodCNN.com
Sugary Vs Diet DrinksHarvard.edu

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