Diet Soft Drinks: Do They Cause Weight Gain? And Why? Lessons from Clinical Practice

Topics: Obesity and Weight Loss, Wellness and Health

The Framingham Heart Study has been ongoing for 50 years and three generations.

Boston University researchers studied those without metabolic syndrome. That means any 3 of a large waist, low HDL (good) cholesterol, higher blood sugar, blood pressure or triglyceride levels.

Metabolic syndrome puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. At least 47 million Americans have it.

The study studied 1 soda (regular or diet) daily and found
• 44% greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome;
• 32% greater risk of having low levels of HDL;
• 31% greater risk of becoming obese;
• 30% greater risk of having a large waist;
• 25% greater risk of developing high blood triglycerides or high blood sugar.

You already know about High Fructose Corn Syrup in soda. But why does diet soda seem to cause the same weight gain?

Spinmeisters for the soda lobby know–it doesn’t. (reasoning? it’s a multibillion dollar industry!)

Their press release says the study results “defy common sense”; and quote the American Heart Association as saying “diet soda can be a good option to replace caloric beverages that do not contain important vitamins and minerals.” The Pepsi Wellness Board ! Chair questions why weight gain comes from drinks with no calories.

Geez. It’s not just that these people should know better. They do know better. And so does every dieter who is sick of hearing “just eat less and exercise more,” and gaining weight while drinking diet soda.

Having seen thousands of patients for successful weight loss, I think diet drinks cause weight gain in two ways.

First, diet drinks shift your palate: they accustom your taste buds to the flavor of sweet with no caloric penalty. You get used to eating sweet things, and pretty soon you cannot easily tell the difference between sweet calorie-free and sweet calorie-rich.

And second, you think you can eat more, because you are saving calories with a diet drink. So you do.

What to do? If you can’t quit cold turkey, dilute your soda. Pour two ounces in a tall, narrow glass (it’s the shape that helps you drink less)and fill the glass with sparkling water.

Drink up. Make the single soda last all week. Gradually, you won’t need it at all. And you’ll lose weight.