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Say What? Diet Soda Makes You Gain Weight

Written on July 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm , by

Just because it says "diet" doesn't mean it's good for you.

This is one of those studies that make you want to stomp your feet and say, “But it’s not fair!” (insert whiny pitch here). What once seemed like a foolproof way to cut calories has now been proven to actually make you gain weight.

Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio recently reported at the American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions that constant diet soda consumption is directly associated with increased waist circumference in humans.

The study showed that over a period of nine years, diet soda drinkers experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared to a non-drinker. Subjects who admitted to drinking two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users. For anyone who relies on a diet soda 3 p.m. pick-me-up, this news is definitely disheartening.

But why does something with zero calories still have the ability to make you gain weight? Researchers say that our brains know when we eat or drink something that has fake sugar in it, causing our bodies to produce more insulin to make up for it, which blocks the ability to burn fat. So the next time you start to experience your midday energy crash, try water with mint leaves, tea, or another healthy sipping substitute to keep the pounds off.

Tell us: How much diet soda do you drink?

Categories: The Fit Stop | Tags:
13 Comments

  • Kat

    Can this study be applied outside of the comsuption of diet drinks that incorporate fake sugar in their recipe to the personal use of fake sugars? I frequently use fake sugar as a substitute or additive in drinks and food.

  • Anna

    If this is true what would be the effect with Type 1 Diabetics (since the pancreas cannot make insulin)?

  • Erin

    What about drinks make with Stevia?

  • Amberlea

    I am curious if the people in this study also maintained an active lifestyle as well? I have maintained an 85lb weight loss for almost twelve years now and I consume diet soda on a daily basis. I used to drink regular soda when I was overweight. I feel the calories and sugar in the soda contributed to my being heavy. Once I started changing my habits with food, switching to diet soda, and physical activity, I lost the weight. I continue to workout 5-6 days a week and drink diet soda and I haven’t gained a pound in 12 yrs!

  • Peggy

    Then what is a good healthy alternative for a tasty pick me up during the afternoon slumps

  • John Fleming

    This report raises as many questions in my mind as it answers…and be no means convinces me I have to stop using diet soda in moderation. I think that there are other factors at play here that contribute more to the weight gain than diet soda.

  • Amber K

    I am also curious like Amberlea…

    I drink diet pop daily (one can a day) and have not gained weight after losing a significant amount of weight (100 lbs). I have been maintaining for a couple of years and have found that I have stayed around the same weight (within 1-5 pounds of my goal).

    While I don’t consider diet pop healthy, in moderation I’m not concerned.

  • jdurk002

    Just because there’s a correlation doesn’t prove a causal relationship between weight gain and drinking diet soda. Further, the ‘body expecting calories it doesn’t get’ thing is pure speculation.

    I’ve learned to expect such shoddy science from the ‘food experts’. “Don’t eat eggs, they’re bad! Oh, wait, no, they’re good. Eat margarine, not butter! Oh, wait, no, margarine is bad.” Really. These people have no freaking clue.

  • Karen

    While it’s probably not great to drink a ton of diet soda….I agree completely with the previous comment. Correlation does not equal causation. I would need to see the original study and the data collection methods as well as how investigators controlled for possible third variable confounds.

  • Jenna

    How’d I lose so much weight – and maintain it – while drinking diet soda, then? Am I the exception to the rule, with some sort of superhuman body or metabolism? Not according to my doctor. I suspect that some folks who drink diet sodas may still be ingesting too many calories from other sources, hence adding to their waistlines.

  • trailtripper

    I think one of the points they were making was the gain in circumference of the waist.
    I have noticed that in myself. Not necessarily gaining weight.

  • Runeshadow

    Oh for heaven’s sake, check out the link in the article to the research: from a project studying aging that uses a group of European Americans and Mexican Americans, 474 participants in this study, with measurements taken at intake and 3 more times over ten years. Although the focus is on aging, it was unclear to me how old the participants were. The summary states: “The results were adjusted for waist circumference, diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level, neighborhood of residence, age and smoking status at the beginning of each interval, as well as sex, ethnicity and years of education.” However, it makes no mention of dietary factors other than diet beverages!! And it did not differentiate between types of artificial sweeteners, so doesn’t answer the aspartame-stevia questions. Gimme a break. NO food is totally bad or totally good. I work at moderation and will dismiss this study entirely. Now, for a refreshing Diet Coke because it is freaking hot here….

  • Kayleighnoelpalmer

    I am one of those people that scoffs at studies like this- so many factors play in. I typically drink over 60 fl oz of diet soda every day (yes, every day!), but I eat a very low-fat and low-carb diet (and about 1500 cals/day) and run 3-5 miles every morning. I’ve lost over 40 pounds the last six months doing this. Your body cannot “sense” fake sugars; they are simple made from compounds that break down into basic amino acids, just like everything else. Drink away!