Weekly challenge: choose water over diet soda to manage weight

diet soda doesn’t help with weight loss (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Pepsi drinks sit on display at JJ&F Market in Palo Alto, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

In the push to whittle down America’s waistline, public health experts have condemned sugar-sweetened beverages such as Coke, Pepsi, and Snapple. But don’t turn to their diet versions just yet. It turns out that replacing these high-calorie beverages with their no-calorie versions may not help us lose weight—and could actually sabotage our efforts.

That’s according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Public Health, which found that overweight people who drank diet beverages ate more calories overall each day compared to those who drank sugary drinks.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins examined dietary surveys from 24,000 adults and found that those at a healthy body weight who drank sugary drinks consumed about 200 more calories each day compared to those who drank diet drinks. For those who were overweight or obese, however, the opposite was true. Overweight subjects who drank diet drinks consumed 88 calories more per day on average. Obese participants who drank diet beverages ate 194 calories more than their counterparts who drank sugary beverages.

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“Simply switching to diet soda does not appear to be enough to promote long-term weight loss,” said study leader Sara Bleich. Dieters may compensate by eating more sweet snacks, she added, possibly because artificially sweetened beverages fuel sugar cravings by reinforcing the body’s preference for sweets, without providing calories to reduce the appetite.

While she and her colleagues didn’t examine whether drinking water instead of sugary or diet drinks helped improve weight loss efforts, a 2007 study conducted by other researchers found that drinking water instead of regular soft drinks led overweight women to consume 200 fewer calories a day.

Your challenge for this week: cut back on sweet-tasting beverages and consume plain-old water instead.