Is diet soda really any better for you than regular soda? Will it help you lose weight?
Diet sodas have long been marketed as weight loss tools. The idea is that they allow people to enjoy the sweetness of regular sugary soda, but without the calories and weight gain.
Scientists, however, are highly skeptical of the marketing claims. They all agree that regular soda is terrible for you and should be avoided. But they have serious questions about whether diet soft drinks, which tend to contain artificial sweeteners, are any better. The researchers I spoke to said they try to stay away from both types of drink and opt for water instead.
"The big controversy in this area is whether artificial sweeteners and diet beverages might be contributing to the obesity epidemic and a parallel diabetes epidemic, which is exactly what they’re supposed to help curb," explained Vasanti Malik, a Harvard researcher who has studied diet soda.
That's because the evidence on whether drinking diet soda causes people to gain weight, leading to other chronic diseases, is genuinely mixed. One study from 2008 looked at the relationship between consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and long-term weight gain in 3,682 people. Drinking diet soda was associated with an almost doubled risk of overweight and obesity. "These findings raise the question whether artificial sweeteners use might be fueling — rather than fighting — our escalating obesity epidemic," the authors of that study wrote.
Image Credit: Jarosław Puszczyński