Diet Soda and Weight Gain – The Surprising Way Artificial Sweeteners Make You Fat

Millions of people drink Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi and other ‘zero calorie’ sodas. Many of them probably think that they are making, if not a healthy, at least a healthier choice.

Most would also think they’d be more likely to lose weight drinking a product with ‘diet’ in the title. Surprisingly, research studies are showing they’d be wrong.

Here’s why drinking diet soda is actually more likely to make you gain weight than lose it and may also dramatically increase your risk of diabetes – a disease now reaching epidemic proportions in Western societies.

Weight Gain Studies

In the San Antonio Heart Study, conducted by the University of Texas Heart Science Center, researchers found, over the course of 25 years, that the more diet sodas a person drank on average, the more likely they were to become overweight or obese.

Participants were actually even more likely to gain weight drinking Diet Coke or Pepsi than they were drinking the regular high fructose corn syrup sweetened versions.Diet Soda and Weight Gain

Here are two interesting quotes from their research:

“…it didn’t matter whether people were drinking diet or regular soft drinks: drinking sodas of any kind seemed to increase the risk of weight gain. In fact, drinking diet soft drinks seemed to be much more closely related to the incidence of becoming overweight or obese. “

And “…on average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”

How could diet soda and weight gain be so strongly correlated? How could something sold to us as a weight-loss drink with no calories be making us fat?

It turns out that the calories in an individual soda aren’t nearly as important as the powerful ability artificial sweeteners have to provoke hunger.Diet Soda and Weight Gain

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How Diet Soda Makes You Hungry

Another 2012 research study called ‘Altered Processing of Sweet Taste in the Brains of Diet Soda Drinkers‘ found that “Artificial sweetened beverage consumption has been linked to obesity”, is “associated with impaired energy function” and “alterations in the reward processing of sweet taste in individuals who regularly consume diet soda”.

To break down the scientist-speak: you drink diet soda, but unlike other kinds of sweet drinks, like say freshly made juice, it doesn’t satisfy you.

Your body knows there is no nutrition in it and it stimulates more hunger to get what it needs. This effect means you end up eating and drinking far more calories as a result.

It gets worse. Dr. David Ludwig has published research in the Journal of American Medical Association entitled ‘Artificial Sweetened Beverages: Cause for Concern‘.

In the scientific paper he says “overstimulation of sugar receptors by frequent consumption of hyper-intense sweeteners may cause taste preferences to remain in, or revert to, an infantile state (i.e., with limited tolerance for more complex tastes).”

In essence, by drinking artificially sweetened drinks with their intense sweetness, yet no nutritional value of any kind, we could be training our sense of taste back to a childlike state where we heavily favor sweet foods and drinks over the more complex flavors of healthier foods.

Just how long do you think it would take someone to get fat if the majority of your meals had to be simple and sweet for them to eat them?Diet Soda and Weight Gain

Diabetes Risk

It’s well known that people who eat and drink a lot of sugar are at a far higher risk of developing diabetes. Now a new 2013 study – ‘Diet Drinks Associated with Increased Risk of Type II Diabetes’ – has found an even greater likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes in women who drink diet soda, than those who drink the regular sugar laden stuff.

The research followed 66,188 women over 14 years so it’s a significant sample size. The scientists found that even taking into account the already greater risk of diabetes in soda drinkers, those women who drank just half a liter of diet soda a week had a 15% higher chance of developing diabetes. That’s above and beyond the already high risk of normal soda drinkers.

And the heavier diet soda drinkers, having more than 1.5 liters a week (and we probably all know people that drink this much), had a staggering 59% greater risk than regular soda drinkers, of developing one of the worst diseases to have to live with – type II diabetes.Diet Soda and Weight Gain

Stop Drinking Soda

Diet soda provokes your appetite, making you more hungry. And due to the effect it has on your sense of taste, you’re most likely to reach for processed junk food.

Conveniently, the same multinational companies that market these ‘diet’ drinks are also the ones stocking the supermarket shelves with the high carbohydrate food you buy soon after drinking them. Brilliant business model. Not so good for your waistline and even worse if you end up with a life of insulin injections and failing health with diabetes.

Many people want to stop drinking soda, both the diet and regular sugar packed versions. Their body weight, energy levels and overall health would certainly thank them for it. But where do you start if you want to get over this addiction?

Coming up ahead is a plan to replace Coke, Pepsi and other damaging sodas with something very similar to drink that tastes good and is actually healthy.

Jim Dillan

Jim Dillan is health and wellness researcher, writing about natural nutrition, improving your physical and mental well-being and moving to a healthier lifestyle. His website Superfood Profiles has detailed articles on superfood health benefits, hair and skin treatments and healthy recipes.

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