Diet Soda for Weight Loss?

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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.

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!

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