When diet soda first came out, it seemed like the answer to everyone’s prayers: You could still drink your beloved soda without the calories. But as the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
In this case, it’s worse.
Not only does drinking diet soda not help you lose weight, but it also contributes to weight gain. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that overweight and obese adults who drank diet soda consumed more calories from meals and snacks than overweight and obese adults who drank regular soda. Yep, regular soda.
A February 2015 study found that drinking diet soda increases belly fat. After 10 years of observation, the researchers found that the waist circumference of diet soda drinkers had increased to almost triple that of non-diet soda drinkers. That’s worrisome since abdominal fat, particularly the visceral fat that surrounds your internal organs, is associated with several health problems, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Although researchers are still trying to unravel the link between diet sodas and weight gain, the artificial sweeteners in diet soda may be to blame. “The intense sweetness of these products primes the brain to want more of the regular sweeteners, ” Lora Sporny, adjunct associate profession of nutrition and education at Columbia University Teachers College, told YouBeauty. This craving may cause you to reach for more food — sweets in particular — to compensate for the lack of calories your body was expecting, and over time, can make your metabolism less efficient.
But your waistline isn’t the only part of the body that’s affected by drinking diet soda. Research shows it erodes tooth enamel and is bad for your heart. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center found that, after observing more than 2,500 study participants for over a decade, people who drink diet soda on a daily basis may be at a higher risk of a vascular event, such as stroke, heart attack and vascular death. Well, that’s scary.
And as if that weren’t enough, the caramel color found in several dark sodas, including diet soda, may pose a cancer risk. Research led by a team at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that drinking dark colored soda may expose people to a possible human carcinogen, which is formed during the manufacturing process of certain kinds of caramel color.
Bottom line: Step away from the diet soda. Instead, satisfy your craving for flavor with a sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime instead. Your waistline and your health will thank you.