Are Diet Sodas Making You Fat?

Two new studies have linked diet soda to poorer health.

In one study, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were six times greater than those of people who didn't drink diet soda. A second study that found that aspartame (NutraSweet) raised blood sugar levels in diabetes-prone mice.

According to The Week:

"... [R]esearchers speculate that the artificial sweeteners warp appetite, leaving diet soda drinkers hungry for unhealthy treats ... The results were the same for all diet soda drinkers, even after factors such as exercise, social class, education, and smoking were taken into account."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Diet soda is easily one of the biggest health scams preying on well-meaning dieters looking for a sweet calorie-free beverage. Nearly 927 million cases of Diet Coke, and another 892 million cases of Diet Pepsi, were sold in 2010. If you bought one or more of those millions, please realize you would be better off flushing that money down the toilet, as at least then you would not be harming your health.

Diet Soda Drinkers Get a Whopping 70-500 Percent Greater Increase in Waist Size

A study by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, presented at a recent meeting of the American Diabetes Association, has added to growing research that diet soda is not a "guilt-free" treat at all. Instead, after following 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years, they found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. Further, those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500 percent greater increase in waist size!

As you may know, your waist size is not only a matter of aesthetics, but also a powerful indicator of a build-up of visceral fat, a dangerous type of fat around your internal organs that is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Your waist size is a far more accurate predictor of your heart risks than even your body mass index (BMI), so any habit that has the potential to increase your waist size by 500 percent more than someone who does not have that habit is one worth breaking.

A second study by some of the same researchers also revealed that mice eating food laced with the artificial sweetener aspartame had higher blood sugar levels than mice eating food without it, which suggests it may increase your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In a statement, the researchers noted:

"These results are consistent with data from community-based epidemiologic studies in which the consumption of diet sodas was shown to be associated with increased incidence of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. They suggest that aspartame exposure may in fact directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus may contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans."

You May be Fooled by Diet Soda … but Your Brain Isn't

Clearly, if you are still opting for diet soda because you believe it is healthier than regular soda, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Regular soda is by no means a healthy choice either … but please don't fall into the trap of believing that diet soda is "healthy" just because it's calorie-free. As Professor Helen Hazuda, an author of the above studies, told the Daily Mail:

"They may be free of calories but not of consequences."

Indeed, it was six years ago now that research by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, who was also involved in the new studies noted above, and colleagues found that your risk of obesity increases by 41 percent for each can of diet soda you drink in a day.

So what is going on?

Substances like Splenda and aspartame may have zero calories, but your body isn't fooled. When it gets a "sweet" taste, it expects calories to follow, and when this doesn't occur it leads to distortions in your biochemistry that may actually lead to weight gain.

As far as "sweetness satisfaction" in your brain is concerned, it can tell the difference between a real sugar and an artificial one, even if your conscious mind cannot. Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger more communication in the brain's pleasure center, yet at the same time provide less actual satisfaction. So when you consume artificial sweeteners, your body craves more, as well as real sugar, because your brain is not satisfied at a cellular level by the sugar imposter. There is even research suggesting that artificial sweetener use may ruin your body's ability to control calories, thus boosting your inclination to overindulge.

Diet Soda is Not a "Healthier" Alternative

There are other reasons aside from weight gain to think twice before drinking diet soft drinks. In fact, there are already hundreds of published studies linking artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which is widely used in diet soda, to serious health complications. Cori Brackett's documentary film Sweet Misery is an excellent summary of the problems with aspartame.

You can also view my interview with Victoria Innes-Brown, who over a 2.5-year period performed a set of meticulous and detailed animal experiments, documenting the effects of using aspartame liquid comparable to diet soda. This included not only large tumors but also neurological effects, paralysis, skin disorders and symptoms of cerebral palsy.

Recent research has also linked diet soda consumption to higher rates of strokes, heart attacks and other lethal vascular events as well as metabolic syndrome.

There is literally enough evidence showing the dangers of consuming artificial sweeteners to fill an entire book -- which is exactly why I wrote Sweet Deception. If you or your loved ones drink diet beverages or eat diet foods, this book will explain how you've been deceived about the truth behind artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose

Are You Addicted to Diet Soda?

It's very possible to become addicted to diet soda, and this likely has to do with the blurring of your brain's ability to respond to both real and artificial sugars. According to Harold C. Urschel, an addiction psychiatrist in Dallas, in a CNN article:

"You think, 'Oh, I can drink another one [diet soda] because I'm not getting more calories. Psychologically, you're giving yourself permission."

Yet the satisfaction your brain receives from the artificial sweetener doesn't measure up to the satisfaction provided by real sugar. According to Martin P. Paulus, MD on CNN:

"Your senses tell you there's something sweet that you're tasting, but your brain tells you, 'Actually, it's not as much of a reward as I expected.' The consequence might be that the brain says, 'Well, I'll have more of this."

"Artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects -- meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol, and even drugs of abuse. Whenever you have that, there is a potential that a subgroup of people ... will have a chance of getting addicted."

If you're finding it difficult to ditch diet soda, your emotional connection to cravings might be an important factor for you. One of the most profound methods I know of for diminishing the effects of food cravings is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), and particularly Turbo Tapping, which is a refinement of EFT that allows you to resolve emotional aspects of an addictive problem in a short period of time. I strongly recommend giving this technique a try if you can't kick your diet soda habit.

Once you have broken your addiction, you may be able to introduce the natural sweetener Stevia, which can be used to make your own drinks and food dishes. My favorites are the liquid stevias that come in flavors like English Toffee and French Vanilla, which you can even add to seltzer water to make a far healthier soda alternative.