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Can Diet Drinks Increase Calorie Intake?

Recent studies focus on increase in hunger, conclude diet drinks possibly cause an increase in blood sugars.  

New research indicates that people who drink diet soda do not overcompensate by eating more calories, and in addition, such beverages may in fact help to control cravings.

The findings come from two studies presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) 2017 during a symposium sponsored by the International Sweeteners Association. Marc Fantino, MD, of CreaBio Rhone-Alpes research center, Lyon-Givors Hospital Center, France, added that there has been some concern that using low-calorie sweetened drinks increases food intake by disrupting the responses to sweet taste and the “conditioned” satiety response.

In the study, Dr. Fantino reported that 80 women and 86 men who hadn’t previously consumed diet drinks were randomized to low-calorie sweetened beverages or water and then were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. The study had the participants intake beverage sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners (660 mL/day) for 4 weeks by healthy normal-weight men and women who were not regular consumers of intense sweeteners did not promote selection and intake of more sweet foods nor increase the intake of calories, he reported.

In the randomized controlled study, they found that subjects who drank diet drinks (and who had previously never used them) did not eat more than those who drank water. Charlotte A Hardman, PhD, of University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, presented preliminary data that indicate that diet drinks might help people to control sugar cravings.

The results overall add to a body of data that indicate that low-calorie sweetened beverages are an option for some people trying to reduce calorie intake and control their weight, say experts. And even though there are many stories of the negative effects and harm from diet drinks, the results of the study show otherwise.

Richard Black, PhD, of Quadrant Consulting, West Harrison, New York, added that, “All of the evidence for harm is from animal or epidemiological/correlation studies….When you do a tightly controlled interventional study of diet drink, the findings are neutral or beneficial….Diet soft drinks do not lead to a healthier diet, but they can help you to minimize or avoid consumption of unhealthier products, which is important.”

John L Sievenpiper, MD, PhD, of St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, a medical biochemist, added that, “Diet drinks might have a role in children, very doubtful that in obese adults it would not help that much.”

According to Dr. Fantino, the results are in line with the conclusions from a study published by P. J. Rogers et al last year (Int J Obes [Lond]. 2016;40:381-394),

From the results of this systematic review, it was concluded that, “the preponderance of evidence from all human randomized controlled trials indicates that low-energy-sweetener consumption does not increase energy intake or body weight, whether compared with caloric or noncaloric (for example, water) control conditions.”

These data should reassure doctors and consumers that negative press about the possible harm of diet drinks has had an impact and that diet drinks can be beneficial in helping to support weight loss, but it is not a solution for everyone.

Practice Pearls:

  • 80 women and 86 men who hadn’t previously consumed diet drinks were randomized to low-calorie sweetened beverages or water and then were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.
  • Results show that low-energy-sweetener consumption does not increase energy intake or body weight.
  • The preponderance of evidence from all human randomized controlled trials indicates that low-energy-sweetener consumption does not increase energy intake or body weight,

European Congress on Obesity 2017. May 19, 2017; Porto, Portugal. Symposium of International Sweeteners Association.