By: Chris O'Shea
You've seen it before: The overweight guy and his curious order. He steps up to the counter at McDonald's and you're wondering what he'll choose. He proceeds to order three burgers, two large fries, a sundae…. And a diet coke. It makes no sense, but it happens. In fact, it seemingly happens to much that scientists have decided to look into the impact of diet soft drinks on food intake and weight gain. Turns out that diet coke is the very reason for the monstrous McDonald's order.
In one study showing the impact of diet soft drinks, a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed data from a survey of 24,000 Americans over a decade. The report, published in the American Journal of Public Health, said that overweight people who chose to drink diet sodas ended up eating more than those who drank other liquids; even regular soda. The numbers showed that overweight drinkers who chose diet soda consumed 1,965 calories a day, while those who drank regular soda consumed only 1,874 calories a day.
This is just the latest scientific study to highlight the detrimental effect of drinking diet soda. This summer, researchers at Purdue University found a correlation between the drink and numerous serious health concerns. It's also been linked to making drinkers depressed, as well as getting them drunker when mixed with alcohol.
In fact, according to a study from all the way back in 2011, you're probably best not drinking any soda whatsoever. In that case, researchers followed 474 people ages 65 to 74 for over a period of 10 years. They found that the people who drank diet soda saw their waists grow by about 70 percent more than those who didn't drink soda at all. "Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised," the study's lead author Dr. Helen Hazuda, a professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, said in a media statement at the time. "They may be free of calories, but not of consequences."
That might seem like a no-brainer, and it is: Only the wrong way. People who drink diet sodas don't understand or willingly forget that the move alone won't help them lose weight. They do one thing and don't incorporate other alterations to the way they live their lives. "The push to diet soda may not make a lot of sense if you are then also eating more solid food," Dr. Sarah Bleich, who led the Johns Hopkins study, told Reuters. "The switch from a sugary beverage to a diet beverage should be coupled with other changes in the diet, particularly reducing snacks."
There is some good news. Sales of soda dropped by seven percent last year, more than any other beverage category. That means people might have finally realized that soda — diet or not — isn't good for you. Either that or they've just decided to move on to beer and say to hell with it all.
[Image via Flickr - Nomadic Lass]