Diet Soda Drinkers Consumed More Calories

Diet beverages may lead people to eat more than if they drank the regular version

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Every year, millions of people try to lose weight through dieting. A new study has shown that one common diet practice may be tricking people into eating more than they think.

This new study found that about one fifth of American adults drank diet beverages.

This study showed that overweight and obese people who drank diet beverages consumed more calories in solid food during meals and snacks than those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.

The researchers wrote that artificial sweeteners in diet beverages may contribute to problems with appetite control, and that heavier adults who drink diet beverages will need to reduce their consumption of solid-food calories to lose weight.

"Ask a nutritionist about healthy drink choices."

This study was led by Sara N. Bleich, PhD, of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD.

This research team used data from the 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to compare the caloric intake of individuals by weight status and diet beverage consumption.

The NHANES is a population-based survey that collects health and nutrition information on the American population. This study looked at 23,965 people from the NHANES.

This study showed that overweight and obese adults consumed more calories by eating solid foods than their same-weight counterparts who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.

The researchers found that overweight individuals who drank diet soda consumed an average of 91 more solid food calories than overweight sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers did. Among obese adults, the numbers increased to 161 more solid food calories than those of equal weight who drank sugar-sweetened beverages.

This study also showed that healthy weight adults who drank diet soda actually consumed 148 fewer calories per day than diet beverage drinkers.

According to Dr. Bleich and colleagues, overweight people are often advised to drink diet beverages to help with weight loss, and these people appear to be following that advice. The results of this study indicated that one in five overweight and obese adults consumed diet drinks, which was almost twice the rate of healthy weight adults.

Dr. Bleich said, “The results of our study suggest that overweight and obese adults looking to lose or maintain their weight — who have already made the switch from sugary to diet beverages — may need to look carefully at other components of their solid-food diet, particularly sweet snacks, to potentially identify areas for modification.”

The researchers noted that both overweight and obese diet beverage drinkers consumed fewer liquid calories compared with sugar-sweetened beverage drinkers.

According to Rusty Gregory, a certified wellness coach and dailyRx Contributing Expert, "The sweeteners in diet soda drinks don't control the amount of sugar the consumer ingests, it actually stimulates the desire for more. So, by drinking diet sodas the extra calories come from an increase in added sugar from other foods. This leads to weight gain, a large waist circumference, elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure, and/or high blood sugar."

This study was limited by the use a single day dietary intake measure that may not accurately reflect the normal caloric intake of an individual. In addition, the NHANES data were cross-sectional, which can only show associations rather than causality.

This study was first published January 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

The authors had no disclosures.

The project was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Review Date: 
January 15, 2014
Last Updated:
January 20, 2014