Your choice of soft drink says about your character 🥤
If you're trying to lose weight, one of the obvious steps to take would be switching from your favourite, regular sodas to sugar-free varieties. But unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard that these artificially-sweetened drinks can, in fact, sabotage your weight-loss efforts – despite having 0 calories! So, what's the truth? Should you throw out your cans of regular Coke for Diet Coke or not? Also, perhaps, more importantly, are diet sodas healthy? Well, I guess you have to continue reading to find out.
What are diet sodas?
In case you didn't know, diet sodas – alternatively marketed as sugar-free, zero-calorie, or low-calorie drinks – are sugar-free versions of fizzy beverages with virtually no calories. And yet, they still offer the taste of sweetness. But how? Well, through artificial sweeteners! Popular examples include aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium, neotame, and saccharin (Sweet’N Low).
Aren’t diet sodas bad for your health?
So, I take it that you’ve come across research (or at least, news articles) that highlight the link between a wide range of health risks – everything from cancer to premature death – and the consumption of diet soda. Truth be told, while downing five cans of diet soda every day isn't exactly beneficial for your health, it might not be bad, either. You see, the results of some of the studies suggesting negative health consequences of artificial sweeteners should be taken with a pinch of salt. Let's take a more detailed look at the various studies:
According to a recent (2019) study published by the JAMA Internal Medicine, people who drank two or more glasses of diet soda a day were 26% more likely to die early than those who kept their consumption to less than one glass a month. But if you look at the study more closely, you’ll realize that there’s no need to freak out, after all. Here’s why:
o Correlation does not equal causation. This study, just like any epidemiological data, is observational research. We cannot rule out the possibility that confounding factors were influencing the finding.What if, for instance, people who drank a lot of diet soda also had higher levels of chronic stress, which increases your risk of heart disease that can lead to death?
o Scientists still don’t know how diet soda can kill people. We don’t have a plausible mechanism as to how diet soda affects the body and proof of causation yet. More research is still needed in the long term.
Makes you crave more sugary things afterward?
A 2016 study found that the consumption of diet sodas can increase the motivation to seek out more sugary foods later. But here's the catch: the research was done on mice and flies! Now, we're very different from mice and flies. So – would the findings apply to humans? Well, we wouldn't know until there's more research.
Causes strokes and dementia?
In 2017, a study claimed that diet sodas are more likely to cause strokes and dementia than sugary alternatives. But once again, this finding is problematic as the research is observational. Once again, correlation does not equate to causation; the study doesn't take possible confounding variables into account and, therefore, doesn't show the exact cause and effect.
Can diet sodas help me lose weight?
Okay, so diet sodas aren't detrimental to your health – that's great. But now, here comes the question you've been wondering about: can diet sodas help me lose weight? Undoubtedly, you must have come across horror stories on the Internet, with various people claiming that they've gained 10KG ever since switching to artificially-sweetened drinks. Well, only two things are possible: they're lying, or they've also switched up their diets ever since drinking diet sodas.
Once again, it’s all about CICO
See, if you’ve been reading our past articles (Secrets To Getting Lean Body Mass and Ketogenic Diet), you'd know that the only principle you need to be aware of when it comes to weight loss is that of calorie deficit. Weight loss only occurs if you're consuming a fewer number of calories than your body is expending daily. And similarly, you'd only gain weight if you're eating more calories than your body is burning daily. So when you think about it logically, how can a drink that contains zero calories cause you to gain weight? It's physiologically impossible.
What’s possible, however, is that people are now ‘compensating’ for the decrease in calories. They’re likely to justify an additional serving of fries just because they skipped out on the regular soda, for example. But what they don’t realize is that the calories ‘saved’ from the regular soda are much fewer than those gained from the fries! The result? They end up going into a calorie surplus! Thus, weight gain.
Takeaway (and not the eating out kind)
Ultimately, if you’re trying to lose weight by switching out regular soda for artificially-sweetened ones, the current scientific literature still seems to support your decision. These sugar-free alternatives don't seem to (definitively) cause any adverse health effects and can be a useful weight-loss strategy when implemented correctly. Just don't go upsizing your meals every time you opt for a Diet Coke, and you'll be fine. Nonetheless, whenever possible, you should still treat diet sodas as a stepping stone; do aspire to give up these sweet drinks for water or other healthy beverages, like tea, in the future.
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Diet fizzy drinks triple risk of dementia and strokes, study claims | The Independent. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2019, from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/diet-fizzy-drinks-dementia-strokes-triple-risk-study-boston-university-a7694421.html
Mullee, A., Romaguera, D., Pearson-Stuttard, J., Viallon, V., Stepien, M., Freisling, H., … Murphy, N. (2019). Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries. JAMA Internal Medicine, 179(11), 1479–1490. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.2478
Wang, Q.-P., Lin, Y. Q., Zhang, L., Wilson, Y. A., Oyston, L. J., Cotterell, J., … Neely, G. G. (2016). Sucralose Promotes Food Intake through NPY and a Neuronal Fasting Response. Cell Metabolism, 24(1), 75–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.010