Diet sodas actually increase your waistline and health risks

A new review of published data found that people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose don’t lose weight. Plus, the sweeteners increase your risk of developing serious health problems.

This new study doesn’t surprise. I remember when Tab™ — one of the first “diet” soft drinks — came out in the 1960s. This sugar-free, zero-calorie concoction looked and tasted to me like the used motor oil you’d see after forgetting to change the fluids for about 50,000 miles.

It seems to me that people on the perpetual weight-loss carousel often replace their sugar addiction with a diet soda addiction. They think they can drink artificially sweetened sodas by the gallon. Perhaps that’s the whole point its manufacturer’s had in mind…

Artificial sweeteners encourage people to eat and drink more because they think they’re getting a free pass. But we now know that artificial sweeteners are metabolic toxins, even though researchers are still documenting and debating the exact mechanism of action.

Artificial sweeteners don’t help you slim down

In the new review, researchers looked at 37 previous studies, consisting of dietary and health information for nearly 407,000 people.

Seven of the 37 studies were randomized, controlled clinical trials that included about 1,000 participants, most of whom were on a weight-loss regimen. In these trials, researchers randomly divided participants into two groups: one received the artificial sweetener and the other did not.

The results showed no benefit for weight loss as measured by body mass index (BMI) in the artificial sweetener group.

Furthermore, the 30 larger, observational studies actually found an increase in BMI associated with artificial sweeteners. Plus, the participants who consumed artificial sweeteners had 14 percent higher risk of developing Type II diabetes and a 32 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. They also had a higher incidence of obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome.

The Calorie Control Council trade group argues that artificial sweeteners still have a place in the diet when carefully used to replace sugar-containing foods and drinks on a one-for-one basis as part of a controlled weight-loss program. But as the new data show, artificial sweeteners don’t actually achieve their purported goal.

Why artificial sweeteners don’t work

Researchers have many different theories as to why these artificial sweeteners don’t work. First, they say the sweeteners may increase sugar cravings and promote the consumption of sugary foods. Second, they say artificial sweeteners affect you psychologically, filling you with the false notion that you can overindulge.

Third, some researchers suggest that the sweet taste — in the absence of caloric input — may confuse your metabolism. Eventually, the chemicals may even alter the way your body handles real sugar. Sweeteners may also affect healthy bacteria in the GI tract, leading to problems with how your system behaves metabolically.

Tragically, more than 40 percent of adults report drinking beverages with artificial sweeteners — typically once a day. Even more alarmingly, 25 percent of U.S. children consume them.

Some people unwittingly consume these artificial sweeteners in fake “health foods” like granola, meal “replacement” bars, and yogurts. Even people who aren’t actively trying to lose weight eat them because they’ve been misled into thinking it’s the healthier choice.

Of course, regular soda has its own set of evils. For one, new research shows that drinking sugary beverages actually “turns off” your thirst mechanism.

I recommend working to reduce your taste for sweets altogether. Drink plain, bottled spring water, fruit-infused water, and black coffee. If you have a hankering for something sweet after your meal, opt for plain yogurt mixed with fruit.

As I reported earlier this month, you can use fruits, like peaches, to naturally sweeten any food. Plus, you get all the added vitamins, minerals and fiber from the fruit, which reduces the risk of cancer and chronic diseases as shown in thousands of other studies over the past century.

Of course, even with the new, convincing review on fully 37 prior studies, the researchers still say they “need more research.” That’s only sweet when it comes to them getting their next research grant.



“Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies,” CMAJ July 17, 2017; 189(28)