Growing evidence suggests drinking diet soda doesn’t decrease the calories consumed by overweight and obese adults. According to a research study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Public Health, overweight adults who drank artificially sweetened beverages ate on average 88 more solid-food calories per day than their healthy-weight counterparts who drank sugary beverages, while obese diet drinkers ate an extra 194 calories per day.
“Although overweight and obese adults who drink diet soda eat a comparable amount of total calories as heavier adults who drink sugary beverages, they consume significantly more calories from solid food at both meals and snacks,” lead study author Sara Bleich, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, said in a press release.
What’s more, when they snacked, overweight and obese adults tended to get more of their calories from sweet treats, according to the study. This jibes with a growing body of research that suggests artificial sweeteners may be messing with the body’s feedback loop when it comes to sweet tastes. “What we’ve seen from animal data is there is something metabolic that changes when you consume artificial sweeteners,” says Bleich. “The brain is tricked into thinking it is less full.”
Americans’ diet soda habit has exploded in the past 15 years — 1 in 5 of us now consumes one on a daily basis. Overweight and obese adults are about twice as likely as their healthy-weight counterparts to drink diet beverages, according to Bleich’s finding. And it makes sense, she says, that this reflects a desire to shed excess weight.
The results of our study suggest that overweight and obese adults looking to lose or maintain their weight — who have already made the switch from sugary to diet beverages — may need to look carefully at other components of their solid-food diet, particularly sweet snacks, to potentially identify areas for modification
The upshot is this: if you’re trying to lose weight and get into shape, it’s going to take more than switching to diet soda. You’ve got to play with the equation of calories consumed versus calories burned to affect change. It’s not hard, and playing the game of nutrition and exercise can be a great hobby with significant benefits to the quality of your life.