How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight

How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight
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People consuming low-calorie sweeteners may overcompensate by eating more than they otherwise would.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Erythritol, the too-good-to-be-true nontoxic, low-calorie, tooth-friendly sweetener that may even act as an antioxidant. What’s the catch?

Well, there are three ways that all noncaloric sweeteners could theoretically be harmful, independent of their specific chemistry. Over the years, “Several large scale prospective cohort studies found positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain…”—meaning the people that drank the most diet soda, for example, gained the most weight.

The most common explanation for this counterintuitive finding is what’s called reverse causation. People aren’t fat because they drink diet soda; they drink diet soda because they’re fat! But there are at least three other, less benign, alternative explanations.

The first is called overcompensation for expected caloric reduction. If you covertly switch someone’s soda for diet soda, without them knowing it, their caloric intake drops. Obviously; they’re not drinking all that sugar anymore. But, what if you tell them what you did? People who knowingly are consuming artificial sweeteners may actually end up eating more calories.

Why? because they’re like, hey, I’m drinking diet soda—so I can have two pieces of cake. In this study, they gave people an artificially-sweetened cereal for breakfast, but only told half of the group what they did. As you can see, when it came to lunchtime, the aspartame-informed group ate significantly more than the aspartame-naïve group that didn’t know any different. 

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to Vik Approved via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Erythritol, the too-good-to-be-true nontoxic, low-calorie, tooth-friendly sweetener that may even act as an antioxidant. What’s the catch?

Well, there are three ways that all noncaloric sweeteners could theoretically be harmful, independent of their specific chemistry. Over the years, “Several large scale prospective cohort studies found positive correlation between artificial sweetener use and weight gain…”—meaning the people that drank the most diet soda, for example, gained the most weight.

The most common explanation for this counterintuitive finding is what’s called reverse causation. People aren’t fat because they drink diet soda; they drink diet soda because they’re fat! But there are at least three other, less benign, alternative explanations.

The first is called overcompensation for expected caloric reduction. If you covertly switch someone’s soda for diet soda, without them knowing it, their caloric intake drops. Obviously; they’re not drinking all that sugar anymore. But, what if you tell them what you did? People who knowingly are consuming artificial sweeteners may actually end up eating more calories.

Why? because they’re like, hey, I’m drinking diet soda—so I can have two pieces of cake. In this study, they gave people an artificially-sweetened cereal for breakfast, but only told half of the group what they did. As you can see, when it came to lunchtime, the aspartame-informed group ate significantly more than the aspartame-naïve group that didn’t know any different. 

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

 

Images thanks to Vik Approved via flickr

Doctor's Note

In both Aspartame-Induced Fibromyalgia and Diet Soda and Preterm Birth, some concerns were raised about the artificial sweetener aspartame. But, erythritol was given a pass in Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant. I’ll go through the other two potential harms arising even from harmless, low-calorie sweeteners in Neurobiology of Artificial Sweeteners and Unsweetening the Diet.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: How to Gain Weight on Diet Soda.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

16 responses to “How Diet Soda Could Make Us Gain Weight

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  1. Your introductory image says it all:
    Diet coke with a Greasy fried, ground cow carcass and a plate full of (I’m sure) “healthy” peanut oil deep fried fries.
    That Diet Coke reassures me that I’m doing a good thing by watching my sugar intake so therefore I can up the fat– and fat– and fat intake. Atkins has taught them well!

  2. There is another aspect here. I read some years ago that the insulin production system is anticipatory. When sweetness is detected on the tongue the insulin production system cranks up immediately, but when the diet soda hits the digestive system there is no sugar to process, so there is just a surplus of insulin that then affects appetite. False messages simply have bad consequences. I suspect that some other artificial flavourings also give false signals to the digestive system.

    1. I have heard this, too. All I know is that when I have a Diet Coke (which I LOOOOVE), it always makes me absolutely starving in a while – like, gonna-pass-out kind of hungry.

  3. I Thank God for you, Dr. Greger, for ALL you do. Hawaii Veg Society had mentioned you’d be back in Honolulu next Spring. I am delighted!! God Bless you!

  4. I’m not saying diet pop is healthy but having a few diet pops a week while doing a Mcdougall diet is not going to have any weight impact. Even as vegans we need to be consistent with our ability to understand and quote the science.

  5. I don’t feel well after consuming diet sodas and I think I’ve connected it to the citric acid they contain. I’m sticking with water. Who knows what that acid does over time.

  6. There is another mechanism which has been studied and found to be in effect: Three teams of people chopping sugar cane. The first got to drink water, the second sugar water, the third got to flush with sugar water.

    The third group performed best. The theory: Group 1 didn’t get carbs so the body signalled to take it easy. Group 2: The body got carbs but had to digest them causing it in another way to take it easy. Group 3’s bodies got the signal carbs were coming but didn’t have to digest them, thus more energy was given than was gotten.

    Sounds like a miracle solution, doesn’t it? Yes, but there’s a catch. Your body expected something but didn’t get it which resulted in energy mismanagement and confusion. And exactly this confusion causes people who eat diet coke to overeat.

  7. I still believe the biggest influence around nutrition comes down to the psychology of someone’s mind and the influencing factors which surround and compound us. We have marketing and media, our immediate social and work environment, the growing distrust in science and preference given to anecdotal evidence or pseudoscience; all of which manipulate our ability to make logical decisions

  8. What about sugar alcohols that are used in some protein bars that I consume? Is it good, bad or indifferent as far as keeping on the pounds that I’m trying to lose? I try to eat whole plant based foods, but sometimes when I’m on the go a good protein bar can tide me over until I can sit down for a meal.

  9. I am surprised that there is no mention of the effect of aspartame on the production of serotonin in our brains. ( edit,,, there is… its just in other videos). By interfering with serotonin production, our bodies carbohydrate regulatory mechanism is thrown off which combined with the increase in insulin but lack of carbs to match it up, we get a double whammy and our appetite increases. Now… add the fact that caffeine increases blood glucose AND Insulin levels, without the corresponding exercise or increase in metabolism, we then have a triple whammy of increased appetite, increased intake of calories, increase of insulin and blood glucose production and of course the resulting increase in FAT storage.. which then decreases insulin sensitivity.. and that leads to increased insulin production which leads to…. Get the idea? A perfect vicious cycle of a storm.

  10. In my childhood, I have heard that soda can cause serious bone loss and ostioporosis. If so I’d like to know why and how.

  11. I’ve always been thin, but in my 20s and 30s, drank a lot of Diet Coke and used Nutrasweet and saccharine in my tea. I was hungry all the time. I definitely think artificial sweeteners make you ravenous. Back then, I ignored hunger signals that I wouldn’t feel now even if I fasted all day! I’m still just as thin, but my hunger pangs have never been even 30% of what they were before I switched to a plant-based, whole-foods diet.

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