Diet soda is far from a health food, and if you never had another bubbly glass in your life, you wouldn’t be missing out on anything. But that doesn’t mean we should blame these zero-calorie drinks for our tighter-fitting clothing.
Some researchers have suggested that artificially sweetened beverages fuel your desire for sweets or possibly confuse hormones related to appetite and satiety, causing you to potentially overeat and thereby gain weight. A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, found that whether study participants drank water or diet soda, weight- loss results were similar.
Diet soda isn't the worst thing you could ever drink...
– Like it or not, we live in a nation of soda-lovers. No-calorie colas fulfill that need for a bottle of pop without causing you to pop the buttons on your slacks.
– Diet beverages provide a feeling of fullness that could keep you from eating foods and beverages that would otherwise be much higher in calories.
– A diet soda may help keep you busy at the bar while others are imbibing calorie-laden mojitos and tropical drinks, and they can also keep your hands occupied at the table to keep you from eating the warm bread and butter that everyone else is picking on.
– Diet soda is still a better choice than the real deal soda, which supplies the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar in each 12-ounce can. For those who are watching their weight or those in need of controlling diabetes, an occasional diet soda may be welcomed and squelch that desire for something sweet.
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...but it's far from healthy:
– Past research has shown that diet soda, and soda in general, may be responsible for leaching calcium out of your bones. This is not only bad news for obvious reasons of osteoporosis, but the bigger issue is that women are not getting enough calcium in their diets to begin with.
–For some, a no-calorie soft drink is like getting an invitation to also order higher-calorie foods. Lots of people I talk to feel less "guilty" about having that burger and fries if it came with a side of diet soda.
– The problem is not just about the diet soda you're drinking, it's also about what you're not drinking instead. For example, compared to this beverage of little nutritional value, you're better off with a skim latte, which at least provides the nine essential nutrients that are in milk, including calcium and potassium, two essential nutrients we lack.
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My take: If you drink diet soda, you might want to change things up a bit and try some water with a splash of fruit juice or a sprig of mint as an accompaniment to your meal. And if you believe the stories that connect diet soda with weight gain, don’t switch to regular, sugary soda. You won’t need a study to tell you where that could lead. Better yet, if you swap one sugared beverage a day for water for a year, you can save hundreds of calories. This simple exchange not only can help prevent weight gain, it also can give you greater sense of well-being.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, M.A., R.D., C.D.N., is owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, a motivational speaker, and author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a health and nutrition blogger for US News & World Report and a media spokesperson, she has conducted thousands of interviews for television, radio, print, and web venues with a specialty in making sense of science while assuring that nutritious and delicious can coexist. She has been honored with the Academy’s 2012 Media Excellence Award and is a past recipient of their Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Follow her on twitter @eatsmartbd, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.