Wait! Study Shows Diet Soda Is Not Just Bad for You, It Makes You Fat

Diet soda has long been held up as a beacon of hope for those seeking to lose weight. Coca cola and PepsiCo. had to think of some way to keep selling an increasingly weight-conscious public their beverages, and it worked. Consumption of diet sodas has skyrocketed in the last quarter of a century, with about 30 percent of Americans drinking sodas containing  artificial-sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. Americans have even felt they are counterracting otherwise calorie-filled meals by drinking these calorie-free beverages.

In recent years, the healthfulness of the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas has been seriously questioned, but now, a study from Purdue University has found that not only are diet sodas linked to health problems like diabetes, heart disease and possibly cancer, they might even make you gain weight!

According to USAToday, Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue reviewed a number of recent studies looking at whether drinking diet soft drinks over the long-term increases the likelihood that a person will overeat, gain weight and then develop other health problems.

One large study found that people who drank artificially sweetened soda were more likely to experience weight gain than those who drank non-diet soda.

Of course, other studies revealed other health problems linked to diet soda consumption, like those who drank diet soda had twice the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to cardiovascular disease, than those who abstained.

Here's how so-called diet drinks backfire, as described in USAToday: 

Studies in animals note a link between consuming artificial sweeteners and overeating that leads to weight gain, said Swithers, whose own research relies on animal models. Somehow artificial sweeteners throw off the body's ability to know how many calories it needs.

"We think there's a much more basic fundamental learning process that's getting interrupted," she said.

Normally when someone consumes something sweet, the body expects calories and sugar to follow. But when a person drinks diet soda the payoff never arrives.

"You get this kind of confusion and that can lead to overeating, and at least in the animal model that can lead to an increase in blood sugar spikes," Swithers said.

Of course, diet sodas are not the only places that artificial sweeteners creep into our diets. Some yogurts and baked goods incorporate the no-cal sweet stuff.

Still, there's enough data on diet soda here, she added, for people to act.

Unsurprisingly, The American Beverage Association, the trade association for the non-alcoholic drinks industry, disputes Smithers' claims, calling her research an "opinion piece not a scientific study."

Swithers, whose laboratory research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, disputes that. Her paper appears in Wednesday's issue of the journal "Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism."


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