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Drink More Diet Soda, Gain More Weight

People who drink diet soft drinks don't lose weight. In fact, they gain weight, a new study shows.

The findings come from eight years of data collected by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio. Fowler reported the data at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.

"What didn't surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity," Fowler tells WebMD. "What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher."

In fact, when the researchers took a closer look at their data, they found that nearly all the obesity risk from soft drinks came from diet sodas.

"There was a 41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day," Fowler says. Read more by clicking the link below.

Posted on June 27, 2005 in Artificial Sweeteners | Link To This Entry | Comments (21)


Posted by: frances on August 3, 2005 1:13 PM

Atkins Nutritionals just announced bankruptcy. Dr Robert Atkins and his company have been considered the pioneers of the low and zero carb theory. The joys of doughnut makers are making headlines. They believe the nasty trend is over. It was media and advertising that made the population seek low carb and sugar free food. Now if they feed us news that the trend is over will Splenda go down with Atkins Nutritionals. What's going to happen to all those diet sodas, and other products touting the Splenda logo. Will the food companies cancel their Splenda orders because low carb is no longer cool. This will get very interesting.


Posted by: Rosalie Nabors on August 28, 2005 11:46 AM

Is it that diet sodas cause obesity, or is it that most obese people drink diet soda? Which came first the chicken or the egg?


Posted by: Donna on September 2, 2005 8:59 AM

What about xylitol? What do you know about it?


Posted by: Michael Decker on October 3, 2005 1:25 PM

You have confused the causal relationship between diet soda and obesity. Obese people drink more diet soda than their thinner brethren because they tend to fulfill oral fixations with diet soda. This is a psychological phenomenon -- not a physical one.

Recent studies have attempted to hypothesize that sugar substitutes "trick" the body into thinking it needs more nutrients -- stimulating appetites for other high calorie foods and causing weight gain. Difficult to swallow, if you ask me.


Posted by: jeanette taylor on October 4, 2005 12:28 PM

I am a diabetic of ten years. Would drink nor eat nothing but splenda sweentened products. I kept telling my family that I felt splenda even made my sugar level go up. I could not loose weight no matter how I tried, even my doctor commented on the fact that I was not loosing weight, even tho I insisted I was watching my diet.Just today, I ate only what I was supposed to and herbal tea-only used splenda-which I had kinda laid off. Again my blood sugar went from 80-to-267. Sleep began to take over me. I was a little freightened. I began to search the internet for info on splenda and found your info. Thanks for enlightening me on this product.


Posted by: Michael Rodgers on October 4, 2005 10:41 PM

Couldnt the connection of being overweight and diet sodas be that overweight people tend to drink the diet drinks to lose weight. Insted of what this article seems to present -- that a zero calorie drink could cause someone to gain weight...

Ummmm maybe we should link breathing with being overweight, as most people who are overweight, also take a breath every day!


Posted by: Lucy Parker Watkins on November 1, 2005 1:23 PM

Weight is one of the most sensitive subjects for people (right alongside libido, that is), but the negative affects of diet sweeteners are very real and are currently being addressed in the EU and UK. These diet food chemicals have negative emotional and physical affects.

Diet sweeteners are a very tangible problem these days, expecially among children. I stress the connection between diet sweeteners and weight gain not to bring up unpleasant issues for anyone, but to point out the truth behind the negative affects these chemical sweeteners have on body weight.

These negative affects impact the body's ability to produce the proper amount of insulin (which can cause weight gain), to sustain normal energy levels, they adversely affect serontonin and dopamine production, they contribute to eating disorders and the way people think about food. This is a very serious problem for children now-a-days. Children in the US and Europe are more obese than ever before in human history.

There is no doubt that diet sweeteners have a negative impact on weight.

And don't forget that diet sweeteners are all chemicals...unnatural in their creation and difficult for the body to process.


Posted by: Frank Johnson on November 23, 2005 3:09 AM

Good service


Posted by: Dana on December 8, 2005 10:27 PM

Our body is highly adaptive. As we eat food or drink beverages that contain sugar, and the sugar flows into the bloodstream, our liver secretes insulin to accomodate the sugar. Over time, these repeated pairings of sweet flavor, then sugar in the bloodstream become recognized by the body. Because our bodies are capable of preparing so efficiently, each time we TASTE sugary things, our body will secrete insulin, even before the sugar reaches the bloodstream.
Enter diet sodas... When you create sweet-tasting foods that do not actually contain sugar, our body continues to secrete insulin when it does not need to. For many people, this may lead to an increased appetite, often for carbohydrates (and especially for those that break down quickly, i.e. sugars). But, over time (and for some it may be a long time), the learned association between sweet taste, insulin secretion will diminish.
Thus, it is not exactly the diet soda that makes us fat, but our inability to recognize when we really have had enough.


Posted by: Janet Starr Hull, PhD on December 21, 2005 11:18 AM

I agreed with you up until your last sentence. Diet sodas are not the only contributor to epidemic obesity but must be recognized as a critical, tangible factor in obesity issues. When the body is signalled that something sweet is coming in, whether real sugar or sweet chemicals, the body will match that with the proper amount of insulin. The insulin will be used up with real sugar, but with fake sugars the insulin builds in the bloodstream and is not processed.

Studies in France show insulin high in the bloodstream penetrates into the brain which may contribute to Alzheimer's.

Diet colas are one of the causes of epidemic obesity. We were not faced with this issue 25 years ago before Nutrasweet came on the market.


Posted by: Kraig on January 6, 2006 8:27 AM

It amazes me how many opinions float when people read an article of this nature. It's ok to have opinions, but to spout off without research or fact basis only harms the conversation.

There is something very needed missing from this article and that is the 'why'. Why does drinking diet colas cause weight gain? There are different reasons.

One is, that Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet) shuts down the Krebs cycle, i.e. the fat-burning function in the body, and clogs the receptor sites that need to be open and 'antagonized' to burn fat.

Second, that Sucralose (Splenda, etc.) is simply chlorinated sugar. Anything ending in 'ose' is a sugar, and will likely be 'processed' as a sugar (see the post above by Michael Decker whose blood sugar skyrocketed when taken Sucralose).

Third, many adults that are overweight would do themselves a favor by having their blood tested. I have worked in the fitness industry for years and I can't tell you how many folks I've seen that can't lose fat (and are gulping diet sodas), but when they have their blood tested, they find that they are Type II diabetic - adult onset. Adult onset diabetes is only another way of saying that you consumed too much sugar on a long-term basis. It's not a disease, but a reaction that turns into a long-term problem. For some, it can be reversed, but for others, not. How does this happen?

When you ingest sugar, the pancreas (not the liver, as stated by Frank Johnson in a previous post), secretes insulin. Insulin is both the most helpful and most dangerous hormone in the body, depending on amount of secretion. Insulin counteracts sugar ingestion and manages the energy production of sugar, but when secreted in large amounts (following ingestion of large amounts of sugar), it is destructive to muscles, the heart and other organs. Think steroids...insulin is the most powerful built-in steroid. To fully appreciate the body's response to insulin, it is equally important to know that insulin is the most fat-producing hormone in the body. Another thing the over-production of insulin does is shut down your metabolism, totally ruining your body's timing and ability to burn stored energy - fat. The increase of insulin will also cause an increase of bad triglycerides, which clog arteries.

So, essentially, refined sugar is, get this...a revelation for some...NOT HEALTHY. Fruits and natural sugars (real maple syrup, pure honey) are the only healthy sugars, but still should be consumed in small amounts. A can of pop has a lot of sugar. This brings me to another important point. Sugar is acidic to the stomach. If you're drinking pop regularly, remember that any soda is loaded with acid as well. If you're having trouble with heartburn, stop drinking soda, and see what happens. Caffeine is also acidic and destroys the adrenal function if taken in large quantities (more than 200mg per day - 2 regular cups of coffee).

See folks, the problem really isn't that we need an artificial sweetener, so we can remain undisciplined and drink all these poisons. The problem is how we think about food and diet. We never pose the question that maybe the problem really lies with us and our willingness to do something about our health.

Don't believe the food pyramid. Anybody that eats 12 servings of carbohydrates per day and is not a performance athlete, will be guaranteed a blood sugar problem. ALL carbs are converted to sugar eventually.

Simple sugar is for quick energy when you're in demanding situations. If you're on the couch watching TV and you feel lethargic and you think you need a candy bar or a soda or coffee, then you are lieing to yourself. What you need is activity. Activity starts the metabolism, which increases energy levels. Simply put, if you take in calories and you're sedentary, don't be suprised if it turns to fat...count on it. Any energy you take in and don't use is converted to sugar and then if not used, converted to stored energy (fat).

If you are overweight, you have all the energy you just need to tap into it. Get active! Think about (sit at a desk), TV, Internet, Xbox, Nintendo...the list goes on. 90% of our life is spent sitting. GET UP and DO something! Live life, don't waste it in front of a tube. We do the very things that robs our energy - sit, consume sugar, caffeine, and poisons, but then compain because we don't have any energy and claim we need the very thing that's been harming us all along! We have gone insane. Part of our problem is that we're addicted to sugar and won't admit it...sounds like an alcoholic, drug or cig addict. The first part is admitting the truth.

Fourth,and finally...there IS a healthy, non-caloric sweetner on the market that is NOT harmful, totally natural, not chemically derived, good for digestion, nutritive, and aids in energy production: It's called Stevia (that is not a brand name, but what it is), and is the most powerful sweetner known to man. Literally 5 drops can do what two teaspoons of sugar can. Find it, use it, get active and eat some real food in moderate amounts and don't be suprised if you lose fat! Eat 10 times your body weight in calories per day, divided by six meals (every three hours), exercise and you'll have more energy than you'll know what to do with!


Posted by: tess on January 19, 2006 9:39 PM

thank you for that, Dr. i work in a health facility and i was really, really missing the 'why'.

i also use stevia regularly. for everyone's information, it can be found in "packet-size" so you can carry it with you and use at restaurants or at work.

as a woman with autoimmune thyroid disease and secondary blood sugar problems, i appreciate any and all facts and information afforded to us.

no hype, just truth.


Posted by: Bodybuilding on January 21, 2006 2:23 PM

I agree with the comment posted by frances. Hypothetically, overweight people naturally tend to drink more diet soft drinks because they are trying to lose weight.


Posted by: Lori on February 8, 2006 3:03 PM

WHile I agree with much of what the good doctor has said and with so many other people I do have to agree with the main article that diet drinks "Help" add to the obesity problem. Many people start diet drinks when they are only mildly overweight, as was my case, and despite not a lot of difference in diet my weight skyrocketed.

One warning however--Stevia has not been found safe by the US or Canada and has properties that may cause cancer, mess with your sugar levels and many other concerns. Please see before you rush out to buy this stuff. Just because it is in a health food store does not mean it is safe. Remember ephedra!


Posted by: Lucy Parker Watkins on February 9, 2006 4:21 PM

I have to disagree with the theory that mostly overweight people drink diet sodas. I think it is stereotyping to make such sweeping generalizations about who drinks diet sodas.

There are many people who are thin and want to avoid gaining any more weight who consume these diet products. There are many people who want to have a free ride and drink as many drinks as they can during the day, thinking it is safe.

The fact remains, these diet drinks run the consumer gamut on demographics. They are dangerous for anyone, slender or obese, and that's what really matters.


Posted by: Sven Tarquos on February 20, 2006 7:53 AM

Considering the consumption of soda in society, I am surprised at the success of diet soda today. To me, diet soda tastes nothing like the real thing. Wouldn't it be better if we could all enjoy one real Coke or Fanta a month instead of imbibing 30 diet varieties?


Posted by: L.K. Baker on March 22, 2006 1:24 PM

I have a question:

If artifical sweetners are a problem b/c even the taste of something sweet causes the body to start "looking for calories" (which supposedly causes the downward slide into overeating and obesity) then isnt Stevia just as bad even though it is "natural" siomply b/c it tates sweet? Won't it do exactly the same thing as artificial sweetners?


Posted by: Dr. Poon on May 5, 2006 10:00 AM

As a physician, I agree with Dr. Hull's post (except for the part about Stevia, which I don't know enough about to agree or disagree).

Just to satisfy my own curiosity about insulin and diet Coke, I have measured blood sugars in a few individuals after consuming diet soft drinks. This, by no means, is a scietific study but, in most people, I've seen a sharp decrease in blood sugar after consuming a diet drink by itself. What this tells me is that insulin is secreted in response to the sweet stimulus of an artificial sweetener. The blood sugar is then lowered because of the action of insulin and soon after the person gets hungry (and starts eating) because their blood sugar is too low. These blood sugar results probably wouldn't be seen in type II diabetics because of the resistance issue.

Personally, I won't touch anything with artificial sweeteners. Mosty because I hate the taste, but also because I've seen too many people, who were marginally overweight, fatten up uncontrollably after switching to Diet drinks and drinking them like water.


Posted by: Davida on May 14, 2006 3:47 AM

When I lived in the USA, I drank lots of diet drinks and used artificial sweeteners, because my father found he was diabetic when I was about 8 or 9. I became a chubby child, and as the years went on, I had a very hard time trying to lose the weight. Back in 1978 I made a visit abroad to Israel - where there were no diet soft drinks available, and the artificial sweeteners for coffee/tea were so sour I stopped using them almost immediately, and switched to real sugar. Despite finding the bread and milk products (high fat) delicious, and eating (basically) like a pig, I started losing weight. After 8 months in Israel, I went home very skinny indeed. Back in the US, I didn't want to gain the weight again, so I went back to drinking diet drinks. The weight came back on, fast and furious. I went back to Israel, and while by then, they had some diet drinks on the market, I was on a small Kibbutz in the middle of nowhere, and they didn't have them available there. Again, the pounds dropped off without my trying to lose them. Then, back to the US and back to the artificial sweeteners and the pounds returned. I went on a crash diet (with diet drinks, of course) prior to my wedding and ended up gaining weight AGAIN, hitting my all-time high of 190 pounds (I'm only 5'2"). I moved to Israel after my wedding and again, couldn't stand the taste of the diet drinks or artificial sweeteners here so switched to sugar. When the pounds came off again, without effort, the penny dropped - I'm allergic to artificial sweeteners! With that knowledge and a modified Weight Watchers diet, I got down to 115 pounds easily, and have never gotten back up to my highest weight - even during my pregnancies.

By the way, the Hebrew University Medical School did a study in the late 1980s and found that 30% of all women (they only tested women) who have problems losing weight are probably having that difficulty because of artificial sweetener abuse. When those women switched to sugar, they found it easier to lose weight.

All studies aside, don't tell me there's no correlation between drinking diet sodas and gaining weight - I'm proof that it does truly exist.


Posted by: Faith on August 29, 2006 3:26 PM

Sorry to burst the bubble of the "know it alls" on here who dispute that diet sodas cause weight gain. I began drinking diet sodas when I was about five pounds heavy. Four years later my weight ballooned about 40 lbs. A physician told me to immediately stop using artificial sweeteners. You guessed it, about a year and a half later I had lost ALL THE WEIGHT. I didn't do anything different except replace diet sodas with regular sodas. No increase in activity or change in diet. Diet drinks can stimulate your appetite, sugar cravings and I was told they affect your metabolism and ability to burn stored fat. So stop saying that fat people drink diet soda. Alot of people ended up fat and unhealthy AS A RESULT of the diet soda.


Posted by: Jeff Hodapp on October 10, 2006 6:55 AM

I started drinking diet soda when I was a kid and now I am 42. My weight has skyrocketed in recent years. I doubted the negative reports of weight gain because I believed the FDA would never approve a sweetener with negative side effects. I feel very foolish. I will completely stop drinking soda. I hope the damage isn't permanent. Thanks for presenting the dangers in a cohesive form.


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