Diet Soda Health Risks: Sweeteners May Cause Weight Gain [STUDY]

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 11, 2013 2:55 PM EDT

diet soda
The risks of diet soda may outweigh the benefits, a new report says. Diet soda drinking may lead to diabetes and weight gain. (Photo: Flickr: mwichary)

Diet soda leads to some of the same health problems as regular soda, says a new report.

Researchers at Purdue University looked at twelve studies from the past five years to look for intersecting patterns. The researchers say they were "shocked" by the findings of their diet soda report, which they published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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"Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health," said Susan Swithers, a behavioral neuroscientists and the report's author. "But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect."

The report points to the negative effects of diet soda sugar substitutes like Sweet 'N Low or Equal. The report says that "accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes (such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin) may also be at increased risk of...metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

The trouble with diet soda and artificial sweeteners, the report says, is that it tricks the body, and not in a good way. By routinely ingesting fake sugar, the body doesn't know what to do when real sugar is consumed. It's like the boy who cried wolf, Swithers explains.   

"You've messed up the whole system, so when you consume real sugar, your body doesn't know if it should try to process it because it's been tricked by the fake sugar so many times," Swithers said.

Drops in blood sugar can also occur from drinking diet soda, which lowers insulin in the blood triggering food and sugar cravings -- negating the benefits of diet soda in the first place.  

Another problem caused by diet soda with artificial sweeteners is the "cognitive distortions" they can create. People may think they can consume more calories elsewhere because they've "saved" themselves from 200 calories by drinking diet soda instead of regular soda. This could lead to an overindulgence in calories.

The American Beverage Association, unsurprisingly, dismissed the report.

"We've gotten to a place where it is normal to drink diet soda because people have the false impression that it is healthier than indulging in a regular soda," says Swithers. "But research is now very clear that we need to also be mindful of how much fake sugar they are consuming."

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