For whatever reason, there are have been a lot of misconceptions that have arisen when discussing dieting and nutrition. One of the biggest misconceptions I have witnessed is with diet soda. Diet soda has been treated as an extreme taboo. I can’t even count the amount of times when I have been told to stop drinking diet soda because it apparently horrible for my body. It’s so often told that diet soda is fattening. It’s always been odd to me that people tell me the horror of diet soda while drinking a bottle of Mountain Dew that has about 77g of sugar! So let’s tackle why this topic is so misunderstood.
It is true that there have been studies showing that people who drink diet soda are more likely to be overweight.
Here’s a result from a study referenced by health.com: “Researchers from the University of Texas found that over the course of about a decade, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference compared with non-drinkers.”
On the surface, this seems to be directly supporting the fact that diet sodas are fattening. However, this study is simply noting a correlation.
As an article by examine.com puts it: “Most likely that was a survey or epidemiological research. This is research that aims to find correlations (relationships) between two variables, and sets up future studies to find which variable causes what. There are many studies that note that diet soda is frequently consumed by unhealthy people, but no studies that compare people with equivalent diets.”
Simply put, these studies that people claim to develop a diet soda phobia only find a correlation that people who drink diet soda tend to be heavier. These studies in no way show that diet soda causes increase in fat. It just happens that people who drink diet soda are usually heavier than people who don’t drink soda. Even though there have been many studies to attempt to show the harmful effects of diet soda, there is not a shred of evidence to promote the idea that diet soda causes increase in fat. The reason all of these studies conclude diet soda to be harmful is because they fail to take into account people’s current health condition and the main variable of caloric consumption. If one’s weight revolves around caloric consumption, then it is crucial that these studies hold caloric consumption as an important variable. It is no surprise then that the same sources that claim carbohydrates spike insulin and increase fat are claiming diet soda as fattening.
So why do people who drink soda tend to be heavier? Probably self-justification. Where do people most soda? Fast food restaurants. Maybe many people think that diet coke makes up for getting a large order of chicken nuggets. Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that diet soda has zero calories. It cuts out a massive amount of unneeded calories. I personally have dieted while drinking lots of diet soda and while having no diet soda. My main focus in both cases was my caloric intake, and I found absolute no difference in my fat loss efforts.
The issue isn’t the diet soda, the issue is people not controlling their caloric consumption.
I understand that many people fear diet soda because of the overall health problems caused by artificial sweeteners. In my next article, I will address if there are any concerns for diet soda in terms of overall health.