Can I Drink Diet Soda Without Gaining Weight? (Diet Myth 5)

No calories means no weight gain, right?

Crushed soda can

In my line of work, I get a lot of questions about how to lose weight and stay fit. I’m always amazed at how many myths there are about how food affects your health — and your waistline.

With that in mind, we’ve been running through the top 6 diet myths. This week, let’s look at whether it’s time to kick the soda can.

Diet Myth 5: Artificial sweeteners are a great substitute for the real thing

No calories means no weight gain, right? That is what diet soda drinkers often think as they make another trip to the drink machine or convenience store.

Unfortunately, current research indicates a possible link between artificial sweetener consumption and weight gain and the health risks that go with it. A 2009 study in the journal Diabetes Care found that daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36 percent greater relative risk of developing metabolic syndrome — a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and stroke —and a 67 percent greater relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with nonconsumption. A more recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, in one group of study participants, consuming artificially sweetened beverages was associated with type 2 diabetes. Another study in the same journal, led by Cleveland Clinic’s Adam Bernstein, MD, linked soda consumption directly to stroke risk.

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Why soda with artificial sweeteners causes weight gain isn’t 100 percent clear, but animal studies have suggested that the body may process sweets — artificial or not — in a similar manner. In any case, if you keep artificial sweeteners in your diet, you never let your taste buds get a break from the sweet taste you crave. The more you drink diet soda, the longer you’ll remain trapped in the sugar cycle and continue to crave.

Looking to get your sweet fix without the addition of artificial sweeteners? Try the following tips:

  • Spruce your water up the natural way. Freeze raspberries, blueberries, cucumber, mint, lemon or lime pieces in ice cubes and use them in your drinks. They’ll provide refreshing zing and, if you’re adding in raspberries or blueberries, a bit of sweetness as well.
  • Take 1 cup of your favorite juice of choice (cherry and acai work well) and mix it with an entire pitcher of water. You’ll get the sweetness you’re looking for without the roller coaster blood sugar effect because the juice will be diluted. Just don’t drink the entire pitcher all at once; nurse it throughout the day.

More diet myths

Diet Myth 1: Sea salt is better than regular table salt.

Diet Myth 2: Whatever you don’t get from food, you can get from a vitamin.

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Diet Myth 3: To lose weight and be healthier, cut out carbohydrates.

Diet Myth 4: If you have high cholesterol, stop eating eggs.

Diet Myth 6: For the most nutrients, go raw.

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
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  • Carissa M

    My question is, if the Cleveland Clinic is finding out all these things about artificial sweeteners, why do you only have exclusively diet pops at your facilities?

  • Ned Sweeney

    I praise your passing on of such knowledge, but the wavering of what is fact and what is supposition creates doubt, such as the artificial sweetner information. I believe many people who imbibe articial sweetners believe thay can eat more calories to substitute for those artificially consumed – more chips. But what is the body transforming from artificial sweetners? Sorry but skepticism has evolved from the back and forth of so many research propositions. Your advise about substitutes is and will be taken. Thanks.

  • AP

    Why do they only serve diet pop at Cleveland Clinic? I go to a neurologist at CC who has to me, because of epilepsy, to avoid all artificial sweetners. Than thats all they serve at CC is diet drinks.

  • LMorris

    Is using plant based sweetener STEVIA an acceptable form for sweetening coffee or tea

  • no way I’m giving my real info

    I call bull on this whole article. Why? Firefox and all of the privacy blocking apps (NoScript, adblock plus,…) I couldn’t even post a message without unblocking about 12 3rd party ad sites. It’s just a shell site to generate ad revenue.
    Of the past 4 healthcare organizations I’ve worked at (3 hospitals and one physicians group) none have had advertisements on their website- 2 of which are non-profit). This Cleveland clinic says it’s non-profit? Um… ok.
    2nd, and just as important, both of the works cited (journal Diabetes Care and study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) directed to broken links on 2 separate websites with possibly legit sounding urls but not the actual urls of the corresponding organizations. Oh, and their site designs are the same on each. Navigating through them many of the links are broken.
    Wikipedia: Clinics in Cleveland and Abu Dhabi?? Seriously?
    I’d love continuing to dig around on this company and maybe I will. Things just don’t add up.
    edit: digging around at some of the links just go further down the rabbit hole. Honcode link on front page- never heard of it and it links to a joke of a website.
    … job openings site. Doesn’t show jobs available, just an online form for doctors and nurses interested in applying. That’s odd. Everywhere I’ve applied they’ve shown jobs available. Not only that, I’m not a clinician. Where are ancillary staff positions? Billing,coding, information technology, maintenance?
    Terms and Conditions? Privacy Policy? They don’t even read like they pertain to healthcare. Just some random site’s privacy policies. A real healthcare organization doesn’t mention 3rd party companies & whatnot. sheesh