weight loss and diet drinks
May 27, 2014

The Debate Continues: New Study Claims Diet Drinks May Actually Help With Weight Loss

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Critics of so-called ‘diet’ beverages have called them everything from slightly misleading products to liquid poison, but a new study published in the journal Obesity has found that drinking diet beverages can help a person lose weight – compared to water.

"This study clearly demonstrates that diet beverages can in fact help people lose weight, directly countering myths in recent years that suggest the opposite effect – weight gain," said study author James O. Hill, executive director of the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

"In fact, those who drank diet beverages lost more weight and reported feeling significantly less hungry than those who drank water alone,” Hill added. "This reinforces that if you're trying to shed pounds, you can enjoy diet beverages."

The 12-week study, which included more than 300 participants, directly compared the impact of either water or diet beverages on weight loss within the context of a behavioral weight loss regimen. Study volunteers were randomly put into one of two groups: individuals who were able to drink diet beverages, including diet soft drinks and flavored water, or a control group that could drink only water. Aside from beverage options, both groups followed a similar diet and exercise program for the length of the study.

The study team found that volunteers in the diet beverages group lost an average of 13 pounds – 44 percent more than the control group. Participants in the diet beverage group also reported feeling more satiated, showed cholesterol-related improvements and had lower levels of triglycerides. Both groups had smaller waist sizes and lower blood pressure after the 12-week program.

Nearly two-thirds of the diet beverage group lost at least five percent of their body weight, as opposed to 43 percent of the control group. The researchers noted that losing just five percent of body weight has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

"There's so much misinformation about diet beverages that isn't based on studies designed to test cause and effect, especially on the Internet," said study author John C. Peters, the chief strategy officer of the CU Health and Wellness Center. "This research allows dieters to feel confident that low- and no-calorie sweetened beverages can play an important and helpful role as part of an effective and comprehensive weight loss strategy."

The results of the new study contradict a study published last year in the journal Cell Press that said diet beverages and other non-caloric, artificially sweetened foods and drinks do not help with weight loss.

The study reviewed data from several recent studies and found a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic syndrome as a result of regularly consuming artificially sweetened beverages. Some of the studies in the review found that individuals who consume artificially sweetened beverages had twice the risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared to those who avoided them.

Another recent study also found troublingly high levels of a carcinogenic brown food coloring in Pepsi One, a diet soda.