We had heard through anecdotes for years that diet sodas were leading to weight gain, not loss. Our great friend, Melissa Joy Dobbins, hinted at the change in the perception of diet sodas last fall. And now, we have a study that says diet sodas can cause weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.
The Purdue University study noted that artificial sweeteners can make your body think it's consuming sugar and create abnormal blood sugar levels at higher rates than regular soda.
The anecdotal perception has been that people eat more while drinking diet soda. Maybe they were feeding a need to raise blood sugars.
This study falls into line with a consistent pattern in the food supply. The more you try to fake your way through (e.g., fat-free cookies and ice cream), the worse off you will be.
Thanks to the study, people will be more aware and can limit their intake of artificial sweeteners. With the exception of non-starchy vegetables, you really can't take in a huge amount of any food group.
As bad as artificial sweeteners can be for adults, children's bodies are still growing. Hopefully, the idea of not labeling chocolate milk with aspartame will get thrown into the circular file.
Last September, Dobbins said "there’s some preliminary research that says diet sodas may perpetuate a craving for something sweet." We noted that this made sense, but needed more proof. Well, now we have that.
While soft drinks are the most popular destination for artificial sweeteners, any product that says "less sugar" or "less sweet" often make up the difference with artificial sweeteners.
One study won't convince the vast majority of those who take in artificial sweeteners to cut them out, much less to reduce their intake. The beverage industry will fight hard in part because zero-calorie and reduced-calorie offerings lower the number of calories per product down the line. And we've had about 50 years of diet food with diet soft drinks leading the way.
This study, other research, and more than a handful of anecdotes can hopefully open the dialogue to reduce the sweetness, no matter the source, of our products. And when using sweeteners, a little bit of the real thing goes a long way toward making your taste buds happy. And perhaps your waistline, too.