Diet Soda Linked to Weight Gain

Aisles of Diet Soda
Aisles of Diet Soda

By Grace Dickinson, Temple University

Pepsi or Pepsi One? Coca-Cola or Coca-Cola zero? Dr. Pepper or Diet Dr. Pepper? If you tend to reach for the latter option hoping to save a few calories, you might want to rethink your choice. A new study recently presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting by the school of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio suggests that diet soda might promote weight gain. The study showed a correlation between larger waistlines and diet soda.

Researchers found a 70 percent greater increase of weight circumference in diet drinkers compared to non-soda drinkers. The more soda the study volunteers drank, the higher the percentage appeared to climb. Those who gulped down diet soda most frequently, meaning two or more cans a day, showed a waist circumference increase of 500 percent greater than the non-soda drinkers.

However, as Richard Mattes, a nutrition scientist at Purdue University, tells the L.A. Times, “heavy people simply might choose to consume diet drinks more.” While the study points out a link between diet soda and weight gain, definitive questions as to whether artificial sweeteners are the culprit still remain unanswered. Mattes believes that diet drinkers might simply compensate for the calories they think they are saving by eating more at other times in the day.

However, another recently published study has linked aspartame, a common artificial sweetener in diet drinks, to increased blood sugar levels in mice predisposed to diabetes. Researchers fed diabetes-prone mice a diet that included asparatame for a period of three months. Those mice that were fed aspartame showed higher blood glucose levels than mice whose diet didn’t include the aspartame.

Whether it’s regular or diet, it’s probably best to avoid soda all together, or at least keep consumption to limited levels. Instead, for a refreshing summer drink, reach for unsweetened iced tea (see recipe a few posts back) or seltzer mixed with 100% fruit juice.