Those of you who follow the blog know that my biggest weakness when it comes to food is sugar. In terms of pure visceral enjoyment, cake may very well be my favorite meal (trust me, it can be a meal). So when I began to turn my health around and cut back on sweets, I turned to diet soda.
When I was craving something sweet, diet soda seemed like the perfect alternative. It was refreshing and temporarily relieved my sweet craving. Best of all, it seemed, was the fact that it was zero calories. Over the years, though, my relationship with it has waxed and waned. I quickly grew tired of Diet Coke and even switched to seltzer water for a long while. I turned back to drinking it regularly when I discovered some delicious options like Diet A&W Root Beer, Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi, and my favorite: Diet Dr. Pepper. Instead of a dessert after dinner, I’d find myself having one or two cans while watching TV or writing. It didn’t take long for me to wonder if I should cut back. Recently, I noticed that after drinking the soda sometimes my sweet cravings seemed to intensify, which was a feeling I never experienced after drinking seltzer.
I was reminded of this after reading an article in the LA Times about a recent study concerning dieters and diet soda. The study confirmed what many have suspected for a long time: people who drink diet soda tend to eat more calories than those who don’t. Among people at healthy weights, their total caloric intake was still less than those who drink sugary beverages. But for obese and overweight people it appears diet beverages aren’t very helpful in controlling calorie consumption. Now of course, maybe these people would be consuming even more calories without the diet soda, but there is likely a large group of overweight people who unknowingly eat more calories after thinking they have made a wise choice with a zero calorie beverage. Or, some people may crave real sugar after consuming the fake stuff and decide to indulge.
Another concern many people have is related to the ingredients in diet soft drinks. Various studies have researched the potential negative health effects of sugar substitutes. I’m not at all qualified to discuss the science of it, but I think it probably can’t be a good thing to ingest a huge amount of these chemicals. Drinking diet soda in moderation is fine for anyone who enjoys it. But be aware that it probably isn’t a very helpful diet tool. And going overboard could have potential negative health effects related to caffeine or sugar substitutes.
Personally, I’ve decided to try to limit my intake a bit. Diet root beer, Diet Dr. Pepper — I’ll always love them. But I’m going to try to drink a little less for now — except, of course, at the movie theater, where I just have to have ALL THE SODA.
What are your thoughts on diet soda? Do you think it can be a helpful part of trying to lose weight?