Think you may be doing yourself a favor every time you reach for a diet soda rather than a sweetened one? Think again. Researchers released a study Thursday that challenged the idea that low-calorie, diet drinks can help you lose weight.
The study, which came out of Johns Hopkins University and was published in the American Journal of Public Health, actually discovered that people who were already overweight or obese consumed the same amount of calories per day no matter what they ate or drank. Those who chose diet drinks, however, ended up getting more of those calories from food, which suggests that those who drink regular, sweetened sodas get filled up more quickly from the drinks’ calories. “When you make that switch from a sugary beverage for a diet beverage, you’re often not changing other things in your diet,” lead author Sara Bleich, associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Today.com.
Overweight people who drank diet sodas and other beverages actually ate more – about 1,965 calories per day – compared to 1,874 among those who drank regular sodas.
“The push to diet soda may not make a lot of sense if you are then also eating more solid food,” Bleich told Reuters. “The switch from a sugary beverage to a diet beverage should be coupled with other changes in the diet, particularly reducing snacks.” She also said that the results may point to the fact that artificial sweeteners may have an impact on metabolism or food cravings.
However, other scientists believe the study isn’t accurate or in-depth enough to have a real impact. The study only tracked people over a period of 24 hours. And the beverage industry, which advertises its diet or low-calorie drinks as a way to lose weight, did not agree with Bleich’s findings. The American Beverage Association said in a statement that “Losing or maintaining weight comes down to balancing the total calories consumed with those burned through physical activity.”
Diet sodas have been shown to have their own adverse health effects, such as containing a good amount of artificial sweeteners, or fake sugars. Diet soda drinkers may also be more likely to gain weight than those who don’t drink it, a report published in 2013 noted. “Research shows that sweet taste can increase appetite and the regular consumption of the high intensity sweetness of artificial sweeteners may encourage sugar cravings and dependence,” CNN diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis said in a CNN report.