Does Diet Soda Result in Weight Gain?

Posted on October 29, 2012  Comments (11)

Most of us want medical studies to provide clearer (more certain, more specific, more universal) indications than they actually provide. The conclusion of medical studies are often very clouded. Each person has a myriad of complex factors effecting how nutrition, activity and medication will affect us. Certain general conclusion can be drawn but it is very complex and difficult to universally state without various equivocations.

Advice For Diet Soda Lovers: Skip The Chips

Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that diet soda drinkers who ate a so-called “prudent” diet, rich in fruit, fish, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and milk, were significantly less likely to develop metabolic syndrome over 20 years than those who ate a “Western diet” heavy in fried foods, meats and sugars.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by excess abdominal fat, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. About 32 percent of the participants in the “Western diet” cluster developed the condition.

The question of whether diet soda truly helps people manage their weight turns out to be a very tough one to answer.

Conflicting findings abound. A large study published in the New England Journal of Medcine last year found that diet soda had no effect on weight. But another one, published in 2008, found that drinking more than three diet drinks a day led to weight gain.

I would like to know, with much greater certainty what nutritional and food related advice I need to consider when making my choices. To a significant degree I think there is going to be quite a bit of uncertainty (much more than we want) for at least the next 30 years (projecting far out into the future with any accuracy seems very difficult to me.

I am skeptical of purely correlational results. You can try to have similar subsets of people but that is actually hard and if you allow for similar groups and then let the choose something (like diet sodas or not) the chance of that actually being a significant choice that results in many other decisions being different between the subgroups seems a big risk (that makes accepting the correlation as evidence as risky). When you have a scientific explanation it makes the evidence much more compelling, but it is also easy to be taken in by explanations meant to fit the results of a study.

I can believe diet soda can do some bad things to your health. I believe if you are trying to reduce your weight by reducing calories drinking diet soda in place of sugary soda is a big help. I can believe drinking water instead of diet soda would be even better. I want caffeine and don’t like coffee. I have cut down drinking Mountain Dew to less than 2 a week. I have substituted diet soda over the last year. I am not sure that is the right choice, but it is the one I have made so far.

Related: Science Continues to Explore Causes of Weight GainStudy Shows Weight Loss From Calorie Reduction Not Low Fat or Low CarbAnother Paper Questions Scientific Paper AccuracyContradictory Medical Studies

11 Responses to “Does Diet Soda Result in Weight Gain?”

  1. Jeff Loughlin
    October 31st, 2012 @ 11:32 am

    A 12 oz can of (regular) Coke is about 120 calories. You burn about 100 calories walking 1 mile. So as I see it, you can have 1 Coke a day IF you’re willing to walk 1.2 miles a day just to break even.

    I’m scared of Diet Coke. :)

    Water is best, but it won’t satisfy your caffeine addiction. I quit caffeine about 4 years ago. The first few weeks were hellish, but once I got over the hump, I’ve felt better than ever. Caffeine actually makes you more tired when it wears off, so when you’re addicted to that morning coffee (or Coke) you spend most of the rest of your day in the post-caffeine hangover state. You don’t realize that when you are addicted to it, but once your body adjusts to not having it, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel all day long. Seriously.

  2. Keith
    November 1st, 2012 @ 2:56 am

    Well the question remains as hazy as ever, and what I feel reading this post is that the findings of medical researches cannot be implemented universally. I want to ask if this is the case then how will diseases be treated as in case of medicines too the researches are done on a couple of patients only and are not tested universally.

  3. curiouscat
    November 1st, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    Jeff, I am not addicted. I don’t drink it every day. And whenever I stop for a time I have no problems. I tend to go into periods where I drink a lot more and others where I hardly drink any (like 2 a week, or less, for a couple months).

    I really like the caffeine when I am working and trying to concentrate. The last few months I have probably been taking about 3 sodas a day and working on my book and blogs and the like close to 7 days a week – so having caffeine all 7 days (but even then I’ll have occasional days I don’t drink any and I don’t notice anything).

    When I am not working I almost never drink something with caffeine.

  4. Joseph
    November 3rd, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    Soda is one thing one should avoid, I only take it once a while

  5. Hung Kieu
    November 5th, 2012 @ 5:19 am

    It’s hilarious when people go to mcdonalds and then order a diet coke. I never like diet coke. My motto is if you’re gonna drink pop, then go hard and drink the real thing. If you aren’t then just stick with orange juice or water!

  6. How Caffeine Affects Your Body » Curious Cat Science Blog
    November 15th, 2012 @ 7:19 am

    Caffeine prevents adenosine from slowing down your nervous system, by binding to the same receptors adenosine would…

  7. Jillian
    February 5th, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    TBH….I hate the taste of these diet drinks especially diet coke. I think if you are going to be uncertain as to the drinks your are having why risk it with some unknown sweetener, when sugar has and always been the no.1 choice….

    By the way I do try to walk as much as I can to get rid of the calories…

  8. Can You Effectively Burn Calories by Drinking Cold Water? » Curious Cat Science Blog
    April 15th, 2013 @ 1:44 am

    Tyson “Wanna lose 1200 Calories a month? Drink a liter of ice water a day. You burn the energy just raising the water to body temp.”

    But, what if your body is trying to cool down?

  9. The Wonderful Coconut » Curious Cat Science Blog
    April 30th, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    [coconut water] has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium…

  10. curiouscat
    January 26th, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

    Study shows people that consume diet soda consume more calories in other ways. Overall the total caloric intake declines but that decline is only statistically significant for already healthy weight individuals.

    “Overall, 11% of healthy-weight, 19% of overweight, and 22% of obese adults drink diet beverages. Total caloric intake was higher among adults consuming sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) compared with diet beverages (2351 kcal/day vs 2203 kcal/day; P = .005). However, the difference was only significant for healthy-weight adults (2302 kcal/day vs 2095 kcal/day; P < .001). Among overweight and obese adults, calories from solid-food consumption were higher among adults consuming diet beverages compared with SSBs (overweight: 1965 kcal/day vs 1874 kcal/day; P = .03; obese: 2058 kcal/day vs 1897 kcal/day; P < .001). The net increase in daily solid-food consumption associated with diet-beverage consumption was 88 kilocalories for overweight and 194 kilocalories for obese adults.

    Conclusions. Overweight and obese adults drink more diet beverages than healthy-weight adults and consume significantly more solid-food calories and a comparable total calories than overweight and obese adults who drink SSBs. Heavier US adults who drink diet beverages will need to reduce solid-food calorie consumption to lose weight.”

  11. Dolores S. Mattie
    June 13th, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

    Most definitely. Diet products carry on the LIE that they’re safer and better for us. But with a sacrifice for calories, what do they do to recreate that desirable taste? Well, they pump their products with ingredients we don’t expect, that tend to be worse than the original formula. Look at mainstream medicine and how the side effects are worse than the symptoms the medicine was prescribed for.

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