Is Diet Soda More Fattening than Regular Soda?

Despite common wisdom, frequent consumption of diet soda (and artificial sweeteners) often leads to weight gain.

…. Did I read that right?

YES! The average diet soda drinker gains more weight than the average regular soda drinker. How can this be? The short answer: you can’t trick your body.

When we taste something sweet, evolution has finely tuned our bodies to expect a payoff: calories. If your body doesn’t get any calories after consuming something sweet like diet soda, it actually slows down your metabolism to try to make the most of the real calories you do consume. Additionally, after you drink diet soda, your befuddled body and brain starts to crave carbs, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself wrist-deep in a bag of Fritos.

A study at the University of Texas Health Science Center (go horns!), found that consumption of diet soda was correlated with weight gain, likely because undelivered expected calories from diet soda may stimulate the appetite. Of the 622 study participants who were of normal weight at the beginning of the study, about a third became overweight or obese.

For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

  • 26% for up to 1/2 can each day
  • 30.4% for 1/2 to one can each day
  • 32.8% for 1 to 2 cans each day
  • 47.2% for more than 2 cans each day.

For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

  • 36.5% for up to 1/2 can each day
  • 37.5% for 1/2 to one can each day
  • 54.5% for 1 to 2 cans each day
  • 57.1% for more than 2 cans each day.
  • For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up 41%.

Isn’t that insane? Just one can of diet soda a day indicated a 41% increase in a person’s risk of obesity! Now correlation does not imply causation, but the findings are strong enough to make me run away from diet soda like a freaking ninja, how about you?

Other researchers have found that diet soda drinkers are less likely to consume healthy foods, and that drinking diet soda with artificial sweeteners increases cravings for sugar flavored sweets. Animal studies suggest that the ingestion of artificial sweeteners found in many diet sodas cause a faulty insulin response and animals encountered increased caloric intake, increased body weight, and increased fatness (scientifically known as “adiposity”). So you heard it from me, if you want to get fat, keep on drinking diet soda.

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  1. I was interested in this article because I drink Diet Coke, sometimes 2 per day, depending on the weather. I also drink more than 8 cups of water per day and at least two mugs of high-quality fresh coffee per day. Guess what? The diet soda has not increased my appetite. I must be one of the blessed ones that’s immune. I’ve also done some in-depth research on the ingredients in Diet Coke, and I have found nothing wrong with any of them. A lot of the information came from the Mayo Clinic website, especially an article on Aspartame. There are a lot of things out there that get a bad rap, then the myth is perpetuated online ad nauseum. I suggest that people question EVERYTHING, do their own research, find what works and makes you comfortable. Besides, taking things at face value and listening to and following even our own government has gotten us in the rotten state of health we find ourselves in today!

    Keep up the great work, Abel. You are one of the few people whose information I’ve questioned and have found it to be very sound.

    • Come on folks. Diet soda doesn’t make you fat. All that these correlational studies show is that fat people drink diet soda. I had a friend who drank a liter of regular Coke a day. He lost 10 lbs in a month by switching to diet. No wonder. He was cutting out 430 empty calories a day.

      I track my calories and macros. On some days, when I’m cutting and I’ve had my allotment of calories for the day but still feel hungry, a can of diet Coke hits the spot. The sweet taste combined with the carbonation and volume makes my hunger go away. I can get the same effect with water, but I like the sweet taste. Satiety is a weird thing that is a combination of the meal’s nutrients and the sheer physical volume. If the stretch receptors of the stomach are not triggered, you may still feel hungry, even if your nutritional needs are met.

      The whole insulin hypothesis to explain obesity has been disproven thoroughly. Read James Krieger’s series on insulin, on his site, Higher insulin is associated with satiety. That probably explains why potatoes have one of the highest scores for satiety, although its glycemic index is quite high. Protein has the highest satiety out of the three macro nutrients. That’s probably why people do well on Paleo, not due to some magic of cutting out grains.

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