Diet sodas are getting new-found attention this month with some saying they have the potential to negatively affect the body’s ability to function and, by extension, burn calories effectively.
In the July edition of the medical journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, research Susan Swithers opines that “accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes (such as aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin) may also be at increased risk of […] metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Swithers acknowledges that many people are running to “diet” drinks to escape the consequences of sugary beverages, but wonders out loud whether or not consuming sweet-tasting yet not caloric food and drink can interfere with the internal responses our bodies have to “sweet tastes” and their relation to calories. The belief being that our bodies expect certain amounts of calories to come packaged with certain levels of sweetness, the average person could drink liters of the stuff without consuming a single extra calorie, but still gain weight.
One theory suggests that perhaps the average person is eating an extra sweet treat or two, since they’re “cutting calories” by drinking the diet. Sure, this might mean you’re consuming less calories, but swapping a sugar-free option out for a sugar-filled option only means you’re consuming twice the “sweet” you originally anticipated, which brings me to my next point…
…if you’re drowning your sorrows in diet soda because it’s “sweet” without the consequence, chances are high you’ve got a bigger problem than a “sweet tooth.” In fact, the “sweet tooth” is the problem. Searching for a way to continue an extreme attachment to “sweets” without incurring punishment is pretty dangerous territory. Look at your daily nutritional intake – are you consuming diet sodas at particularly stressful times of the day? Diet sodas could very well be contributing to an emotional eating (alias: stress eating) habit and you’d never even know it.
Swithers touches on this in her piece: "Frequent consumption of high-intensity [artificial] sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements."
Metabolic derangement, in layman’s terms, relates to the body’s ability to carry on all of its functions normally, which contributes to the body’s ability to burn calories. This could come from artificial sweeteners like Equal and Splenda and the mere combinations of chemicals that could negatively affect the body, or it could come from the fact that the calorie-free drinks are subverting the body’s ability to understand what it’s consuming.
Either way, diet soda consumption continues to rise, undoubtedly as a result of people becoming more conscious of their role in The Obesity Epidemic®, but they’re focusing on the wrong thing. Though I’d much prefer water for all, you’re far better off consuming a drink with actual, real calorie value than you are with a drink that has none, tricks your body, and can actually make it harder for you to change your figure (or keep the fabulous figure you’ve got.)
As much as I hate sugar-sweetened beverages, I hate diet ones even more. Find some high-quality good stuff, embrace different flavors of tea, or get your daily dose of H2O, instead. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs her journey of losing over 150lbs. A personal trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching, she can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
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