diet soda

The Diet Soda Dilemma

July 27, 2011 at 11:51 am , by

Diet soda might be making you fat. Okay, we know what you’re thinking: I get it! Obesity is a problem! But give me my diet soda or give me death! And trust us, we feel the same way. Diet soda is delicious. It’s sweet, fizzy and it has zero calories. But recent studies are chipping away at the drink’s guilt-free reputation.

Last month a University of Texas study found that people who regularly drank diet soda saw a 70 percent greater increase in their waistlines than non-drinkers over a 10-year period. Those who drank two or more diet sodas a day saw a 500 percent greater increase. Even more shocking: earlier studies from this year linked a diet-soda habit to diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

Why? It could be because artificial sweeteners are 200 to 700 times sweeter than real sugar. Experts theorize this makes you crave more sweetness, which has an effect on your eating habits.

“Artificial sweeteners trick the palate, so when you can’t get your Splenda but want something sugary, you need six times the sugar to reach the same level of sweetness,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at New York University.

In diet soda’s defense, the researchers didn’t take into consideration other parts of participants’ diets. It could just be that people who choose any kind of sodas over, say, water or green tea, are more likely to have poor eating habits. “People usually eat a bag of chips, not an apple, with their Diet Coke,” adds Dr. Young.

Keri Gans, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet, says people who want to drink soda should always choose diet over regular, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. “It has its place in the American diet,” she says. But even then, diet soda should only be a treat every once in a while. Water, seltzer or low-fat milk are much better choices.

So what’s your diet-soda stance? Are you going to try to cut back or keep on sipping?

Photo by the Self Improvement Association.