Diet Soda and Weight Loss
A quick google for the term diet soda will show you a wide range of “health issues” related to drinking diet drinks. But thankfully a new study sheds light on the truth behind the diet soda and weight loss myth.
I’m not sure where the rumor came from. Maybe it was someone angry that zero calorie soft drinks were taking off, or maybe it was someone frustrated with how their diet was going and wanted something to blame.
No matter how you slice it, the prevailing myth around diet soda is that it will hinder weight loss. People go as far as to claim “hangover”, kidney problems, metabolism issues, all nice and vague like. None of these are true.
The dieting rumor goes along to suggest something about tricking the brain into thinking it is getting sugar, so it wants more. It gets a little muddled in there and I have to confess I never gave it too much attention.
However, because of the myth, certain subsets of people dieting have been trying to avoid diet drinks like the plague. With any luck, this new study [along with whoever reads this] will give people some scientific backing to form their own opinion, instead of being scared into staying away from them.
Now the big question, how was this study done. The researchers studied 303 participants for 12 weeks in a blind study participants either only drank water or drank water and diet “beverages” [i.e. soda and other diet drinks]. The participants were set up in a behavioral weight loss program conducted simultaneously by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Center for Health and Wellness in Aurora and Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education in Philadelphia.
[Loony hint: Blind study, meaning the scientists didn’t know if they were working with people who were drinking diet drinks or were not drinking diet drinks. It could not be double blind because the participants would know if they were drinking diet drinks or just plain water.]
The results — researchers showed that subjects who consumed diet beverages lost an average of 13 pounds, roughly 44% more than the control group, which lost an average of 9 pounds. More than half of the participants in the diet beverage group —64% for those curious — lost at least five percent of their body weight, compared with only 43 percent of the control group.
[Lonny hint: It is important to mention that losing just five percent of body weight has been shown to significantly improve health in people who are overweight. This includes lowering the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.]
“There’s so much misinformation about diet beverages that isn’t based on studies designed to test cause and effect, especially on the Internet,” said John C. Peters, co-author of the study and the chief strategy officer of the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. “This research allows dieters to feel confident that low- and no-calorie sweetened beverages can play an important and helpful role as part of an effective and comprehensive weight loss strategy.”
More about the study– the participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those who were allowed to drink diet beverages [things like diet sodas, teas and flavored waters] or those who were in a control group that drank water only. With the exception of beverage options, both groups followed an identical diet and exercise program for the duration of the study.
In addition to losing 44% more weight than the control group, the diet beverage group also:
- Reported feeling significantly less hungry;
- Showed significantly greater improvements in serum levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — the so-called “bad” cholesterol
- Saw a significant reduction in serum triglycerides.
Both diet soda and water groups saw reductions in waist circumference, and blood pressure.
This isn’t the first study demonstrating the benefits of diet drinks to a person trying to lose weight. Two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by researchers from the University of North Carolina in 2012 and 2013 randomly assigned non-dieting participants to drink either water or diet beverages.
While both groups in the studies cut their food intake significantly, after six months the diet drink group had a greater likelihood of reaching a meaningful amount of weight loss [5% or more of body weight] when compared to the control group. The common denominator in the studies was that diet drinks do not fuel a preference for sweet foods and/or drinks, in fact, it appears to reduce the craving.
And that my friends is research I can get behind.
So you’re an expert on nutrition? You probably want the full study — here!
Peters J.C., Wyatt H.R., Foster G.D., Pan Z., Wojtanowski A.C., Vander Veur S.S., Herring S.J., Brill C. & Hill J.O. (2014). The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program., Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 22 (6) 1415-1421. PMID: 24862170