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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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