How come diet soda are bad for diets?

I asked a question a few months ago about influences on weight-loss and the consensus was (calories consumed - calories burned)/3600 =pounds gained/loss and end of discussion. If that is true, then how is it that diet drinks alledgedly have a negative impact on weight loss. I’ve heard claims such as:

You’re body interprets the sweetness as an equivalent amount of sugar and si its the same as eating that amount of sugar.
The sweetness with no calories causes your metabolism to slow so in effect you gain weight.
The artificial sweeteners play havoc with your body chemistry (so I guess natural non-calorie sweeteners are OK) and undo any dieting benefit.

But 2 things. The Dope community was so adamant that weight loss was about calories and not chemistry (the basis of my first thread) and that many of the claims I hear boil down to “drink water” that I wonder about the motivation about these claims similar to Weight Watchers making fruit free of points not because of calorie concerns but rather to promote a healthier lifestyle.

So what is the dope on the impact of diet drinks on dieting?

As a unscientific anecdotal story of why this may happen I would like to share what some co-workers and I observed.

When people started drinking diet soda they tended to up-size their meal, or at least eat more of it.

Mostly as a reward for drinking diet soda.

Learning portion control is one of the most difficult things I have ever done…it does help if you do real counting on what goes in and out, most people don’t realize that an extra slice of cheese has a similar amount of calories to that 12-oz can that seems tiny today.

So my theory, vs the “sweetness making you crave more food” theory that is making it through the media this week is that the rewards people give themselves for outweigh <SIC> the benefits of drinking diet soda.


Diet soda has been shown to be correlated with an increased risk in obesity. It has not been shown to cause obesity.

There are obvious other causes for this correlation. For one, no skinny person is going to switch from coke to diet coke. The people that are interested in diet coke generally are the people with weight problems. For two, dieting more or less doesn’t work. Note, I do not mean that eating less of better foods doesn’t work. I mean that going on a specific diet doesn’t really work. Simply because people don’t follow them. Switching from regular to diet soda is like step one of every diet in existence.

I think there is something to the sweetness causing cravings for more sweets. A lot of what you like is just what you get used to. I used to eat a fair amount of candy and shit, and drink diet cokes, and put splenda in my iced tea, and I was a little bit fat. I cut all sweets out of my diet for a while, and I no longer crave them or find sweet things appealing. Plain yogurt now tastes sweetish to me, and before it tasted sour. And I’m skinny.

I’m also convinced that hormones play a much larger role in weight loss and maintenance than the calories in/calories out people believe, but I’m not in the mood to defend that position right now, except to point you to “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.

Actually, the “sweetness making you crave more food” theory wasn’t in the OP. Did you mean that it was a theory your co-worker’s had? Because it’s a possiblity. I know that if I bite the bullet and cut out anything that tastes sweet, after a few months tomatoes and carrots start to taste sweetish. This doesn’t happen if I’m also drinking diet soda.

And I don’t pretend to know if there’s really a correlation, let alone a cause.

I lost a tremendous amount of weight while drinking diet sodas/crystal lite/using artificial sweeteners in things. In that same time period my insulin levels dropped from pre-diabetic to low-normal, so they were not causing an insulin response.

That said, I am also a careful recorder, so I was careful not to compensate with other calories other places.


Thanks for catching my miscommunication,

For clarification I intended to direct that towards the “sweetness making you crave more food” stories that are making it around the media recently.

fun with dysgraphia :slight_smile:

I think it’s best summed up by Gabriel Iglesias:

“Why do you drink diet soda?”

“So I can eat regular cake. :D”

Granted, the dude doesn’t exactly diet, but I think that’s a mindset a lot of people unconsciously follow.

Interesting new finding: There are taste buds in the stomach, small intestine, and possibly the pancreas and colon.

This may play a role in insulin release and regulation.

The consequences of activating these gut receptors with artificial sweeteners is far from being understood.

Since I started making an effort to lose weight, I’ve lost almost 80 pounds, and I drink 2-3 Diet Cokes per day.

On the role of “non-nutritive sweeteners” (NNS) and obesity.

The concern is mainly that sweet leads to a conditioned response of insulin release which lowers sugar levels and triggers more intake later in response. Such an effect may occur if the product is consumed without any real nutrition. It is unclear how much that occurs however and it seems that if the NNS is consumed with real food the effect is possibly nonsignificant if present at all.

Apparently the interest is limited to subscribers only. :frowning:

Same here, although not quite as much as you (I am probably down about 40 pounds). As someone mentioned up there ^^^^ it is all about portion control. I routinely simply made myself too much food. I now don’t, I move more (gym and dance classes as well as a lot of walking) and lo behold the weight is falling off me.

I’ve also been drinking diet drinks since 1993 as that is when I became a type 1 diabetic.

Very interesting. How long does aspertame stay sweet before it breaks into aspartic acid and phenylalanine? It can’t take much: the stuff seems to lose its sweetness pretty quickly when cooked.

Part of my diet plan to lose weight included a switch from Pepsi to Pepsi Max. I have lost 60 pounds since December. My doctor said I needed to lose weight now he said I lost it too fast. I don’t care, I feel great and can’t wait till the day I see the scales show less than 200 pounds. 17 pounds to go.

Wow-- big congrats to the people here who’ve lost weight!

A few years ago I switched from regular to diet sodas. (I’m a rabid soda drinker.) A year later, I’d lost twelve pounds.

Sure, this wasn’t a huge or rapid weight loss, but bear in mind that this was literally the only conscious change I made in my diet; I didn’t exercise any differently either.

I know anecdotes aren’t data, but it’s at least another sign that diet sodas aren’t “just as bad for you” as regular soda, the way so many goody-goody diet gurus claim.

Making a small change can make a difference, and though I still occasionally splurge with a regular Coke – nothing’s as good with a pizza, IMHO (I don’t drink beer) – the overall move to diet drinks has made a significant difference to me.

There’s a related thread about water here in GQ. Here’s one of my replies:
Note that altho Web MD is not a bad source at all, they still pick and choose amoung articles, often seeming to choose those which support their agenda.

For example, here’s a AJCN article
"*Background: The role of artificial sweeteners in body-weight regulation is still unclear.

Objective: We investigated the effect of long-term supplementation with drinks and foods containing either sucrose or artificial sweeteners on ad libitum food intake and body weight in overweight subjects. …

Results: After 10 wk, the sucrose group had increases in total energy (by 1.6 MJ/d), sucrose (to 28% of energy), and carbohydrate intakes and decreases in fat and protein intakes. The sweetener group had small but significant decreases in sucrose intake and energy density. Body weight and fat mass increased in the sucrose group (by 1.6 and 1.3 kg, respectively) and decreased in the sweetener group (by 1.0 and 0.3 kg, respectively); the between-group differences were significant at P < 0.001 (body weight) and P < 0.01 (fat mass). Systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased in the sucrose group (by 3.8 and 4.1 mm Hg, respectively) and decreased in the sweetener group (by 3.1 and 1.2 mm Hg, respectively).

Conclusions: Overweight subjects who consumed fairly large amounts of sucrose (28% of energy), mostly as beverages, had increased energy intake, body weight, fat mass, and blood pressure after 10 wk. These effects were not observed in a similar group of subjects who consumed artificial sweeteners. *"

and another:

“To examine whether artificial sweeteners aid in the control of long- term food intake and body weight, we gave free-living, normal-weight subjects 1150 g soda sweetened with aspartame (APM) or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) per day. Relative to when no soda was given, drinking APM-sweetened soda for 3 wk significantly reduced calorie intake of both females (n = 9) and males (n = 21) and decreased the body weight of males but not of females. However, drinking HFCS-sweetened soda for 3 wk significantly increased the calorie intake and body weight of both sexes. Ingesting either type of soda reduced intake of sugar from the diet without affecting intake of other nutrients. Drinking large volumes of APM-sweetened soda, in contrast to drinking HFCS-sweetened soda, reduces sugar intake and thus may facilitate the control of calorie intake and body weight”

and another:
Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), particularly carbonated soft drinks, may be a key contributor to the epidemic of overweight and obesity, by virtue of these beverages’ high added sugar content, low satiety, and incomplete compensation for total energy. Whether an association exists between SSB intake and weight gain is unclear. We searched English-language MEDLINE publications from 1966 through May 2005 for cross-sectional, prospective cohort, and experimental studies of the relation between SSBs and the risk of weight gain (ie, overweight, obesity, or both). Thirty publications (15 cross-sectional, 10 prospective, and 5 experimental) were selected on the basis of relevance and quality of design and methods. Findings from large cross-sectional studies, in conjunction with those from well-powered prospective cohort studies with long periods of follow-up, show a positive association between greater intakes of SSBs and weight gain and obesity in both children and adults. Findings from short-term feeding trials in adults also support an induction of positive energy balance and weight gain by intake of sugar-sweetened sodas, but these trials are few… The weight of epidemiologic and experimental evidence indicates that a greater consumption of SSBs is associated with weight gain and obesity. Although more research is needed, sufficient evidence exists for public health strategies to discourage consumption of sugary drinks as part of a healthy lifestyle.
But yes, there is also some evidence that diet drinks don’t help with weight loss. However not helping with weight loss is different than “There is no solid evidence that diet beverages have any bad health issues.”

Thus the evidence seem to be that drinking diet beverages is generally safe. They are also hwaaaay less fattening than sugar or HFCS beverages. But, do not think that just switching to diet soda alone will nessesarily result in a weight loss.

Well I drink diet soda and artificially sweetened mint tea all summer. As well as artificially sweetened tea (with a bit of real milk) the rest of the year and I have been losing weight steadily. I don’t use it as an excuse to eat more, though. Except for the breakfast tea this is a between-meal snack not accompanied by any other food.