Diet Soda for Weight Loss?

Using zero-calorie sweeteners — and in particular, drinking diet soda — has long been a contentious topic in the world of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association endorses drinking diet soda as a beverage choice that does not raise blood glucose levels. But as we noted last year in a Diabetes Flashpoints post, there is evidence that drinking diet soda raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. And certain artificial sweeteners — particularly aspartame — have been implicated in both major and minor health problems, perhaps one reason for the recent drop in sales of diet soda.

So it should be no surprise that the beverage industry was eager to fund research that might shed a more positive light on diet soda. It has done so with a study released late last month, conducted by a University of Colorado researcher with funding by the American Beverage Association. According to an article on the study by CNN, 300 overweight adult participants who drank diet soda regularly were recruited to take part in a weight loss program. Half of these participants were instructed to stop drinking diet soda and switch to water as part of the program, while the other half was told to continue drinking diet soda as before. The program included intensive coaching on weight loss techniques, including feedback on meals that participants logged in journals. The study lasted 12 weeks.

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By the end of the study period, both groups had lost weight. But weight loss was greater in the diet-soda group: an average of 13 pounds lost, compared with 9 pounds in the water group. The study’s lead researcher speculated that within the diet-soda group, participants could focus their willpower on the weight-loss techniques in which they were being coached, while staying away from sweet beverages sapped some of the willpower in the water-only group. There is no evidence that zero-calorie sweeteners directly lead to weight loss, compared with other calorie-free beverages like water or coffee.

Do you drink diet soda? If so, do you think it has helped you maintain your weight, or lose weight? Are you concerned about possible health risks associated with zero-calorie or artificial sweeteners? Is switching from regular to diet soda a more realistic goal for most people than giving up sweet beverages completely? If you’ve given up diet soda, was this a difficult change to make? Leave a comment below!

  • S PAINTNER

    I am not surprised by the results. Considering water vs a carbonated beverage, the diet soda should result in a more “filling” experience with the remainder of the regimen unchanged. I would expect similar results with water vs unflavored carbonated water, but the beverage industry didn’t fund THAT! That should have been the first tested protocol.

  • Diane

    Diet soda can be used as a treat. Better to drink diet soda than have candy. It is more filling too.

  • American Beverage Association, ABA Communications

    Importantly, this study adds to other credible scientific research that has determined diet beverages are, in fact, an effective tool to help manage calorie intake. Those who consumed diet beverages as a part of this comprehensive weight loss program reported feeling more satiated, and ultimately lost more weight than the other control group that consumed only water. This reinforces earlier findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: http://bit.ly/Ik4zjC. Also, as noted here, diet beverages are considered a viable option for people with diabetes. For the many consumers who enjoy these beverages, the fact that diet beverages can certainly be part of a healthy balance is good news indeed.
    -American Beverage Association

  • Arielle Levitan

    There are many other downside to soda consumption beyond weight/blood sugar issues. Among them are tooth decay, interference with calcium absorption for bone health, caffeine consumption and cost.