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Health Team

Diet sodas can lead to weight gain, doctors say

Posted November 22

Many people who are watching their weight believe that diet sodas are the way to go, but studies continue to show that's not always be the case.

It's true that diet sodas have fewer calories than sodas sweetened with sugar, and many diet sodas have no calories at all. However, experts say the effect of drinking them is often the opposite of dieting.

What nutrition experts have learned about diet sodas is that they are far from being considered a healthy option. They can actually intensify and encourage your craving for sweets, according to Cleveland Clinic registered dietician Lindsay Malone.

"When you're consuming artificial sweeteners, which tend to be 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar, you are lighting up that part of your brain that likes something sweet," Malone said.

She says drinking diet soda and the artificial sweeteners that come with it can really wreak havoc on your health. Research has shown that people who drink diet soda are more likely to be overweight and to develop Type-2 diabetes.

Malone says this is because artificial sweeteners increase your threshold for sweetness and will leave you always wanting more.

Another pitfall of drinking any diet beverages is that you can easily fool yourself into thinking that the calories saved in your drink can be made up elsewhere. Malone says that many folks think it's OK to make poor food choices because they saved extra calories in their soda, which can lead to overeating.

Malone said if you just like the carbonation of diet soda, there are alternatives.

"Look for a carbonated seltzer water that's flavored, but not sweetened," Malone said. "And again, there are many products on the market; many stores even have a generic variety that you can get in cans or one-liter bottles that have cherry essence or orange."

If you rely heavily on diet soda, experts suggest cutting back is the best first step. Malone said people could slowly replace soda with carbonated water to help make the shift over time.

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