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Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: Is diet soda too good to be true?

Posted August 2, 2010 8:43 p.m. EDT

Fizzy, sweet, and calorie-free -- it has to be too good to be true, right? These days some research points to possible links between diet soda consumption and increased risk of weight gain, metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis.

Will diet sodas make you gain weight, possibly because the artificial sweeteners perpetuate your craving for sugar? Dr. Howard Eisenson, executive director of the Duke Diet & Fitness Center, says there's just not enough evidence to support it.

“The data are conflicting and limited," he says. "If there’s an association with increased weight, it could simply be because overweight people are drinking diet sodas, or because people who are drinking them are compensating for those calories elsewhere.”

In other words, you may rationalize eating a candy bar since you’ve been drinking diet soda all day -- a psychological effect rather than a biological one.

Eisenson says the basic principle of weight loss is “simple, but not easy: calories in, calories out. Here at the Diet & Fitness Center, where the diet is controlled, we help keep people within their caloric range by offering diet drinks and artificial sweeteners. We say, if you must drink soda, make it a diet -- but water should be the beverage of choice for adults, and for kids, water, low-fat milk, and very limited consumption of juice.”

Could diet soda increase your risk for osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes? Read the full article on dukehealth.org.