Diet Soda Makes You Fat

The Wall Street Journal just reported that Diet Coke beats out Pepsi for consumers in the US—only Coke beats them both in total sales. Consumers reach for a can of that cold, bubbly, sweet beverage to get their jolted caffeine fix and a sugary high, but without the calories of normal soda. Sad thing is, if you’re drinking diet soda, it still might make you gain weight. Find out why.

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center recently presented strong data proving that diet soda may make us fat. They found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the more weight they gained.

Overall, all soda drinkers (both sugar-sweetened and diet) gained weight compared to a control group that did not drink soda. But those drinking only diet soda gained more weight than those drinking regular soda. So much, in fact, that researchers concluded there is “a 41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day.”

Why does diet soda make us fat? It’s not unlike low-fat foods, which may also make us fat. Here are some popular theories:

  • People allow themselves to binge on other foods thinking they can “balance it out” by drinking diet soda later. Wrong, silly. You’re not balancing anything out. You’re just binging. Try drinking water and eating less instead.
  • Putting any food or drink into our stomachs (that isn’t water) triggers our gastric juices to get flowing for digestion, which makes us feel hungry. It’s like revving the engine for digestion. When we tell our bodies to get ready to absorb nutrients from a diet soda that’s actually delivering nothing (but a whole lot of chemicals), our brains get the message that we need to eat something to fill this now revved up engine.
  • The tongue recognizes “sweet” flavors as sugars or carbohydrates, and it signals the body to start producing insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels. Well, when we drink diet soda, there is sweet flavor but no actual sugar going into the system, so our bodies now crave sugar as our blood sugar levels have become unstable. This brings on food cravings and sugar cravings in particular. For this reason, diet soda is also related to diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions. Awesome.

The real way to fight fatigue and hunger is to drink more water. We often mistake thirst for hunger, and by downing a full glass of water, you can stave off random cravings. It’s also pretty amazing what downing a full glass of water will do for a foggy head—clears it right up with a bit of freshness. Down a full can of diet soda, and you may feel high for about 15 minutes, but chances are you’ll feel downer, hungrier and even a bit fatter soon enough.

Image adapted from Yah Im Kenny, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0