Many studies have been done and there is now research to support the idea that weight gain and diet soda are related, due to the artificial sweeteners that are in the diet sodas. These sweeteners replace the real sugar in the soda and the body does not know how to recognize these or how to break them down.
Even though these sweeteners are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and deemed safe for everyone, these are not the best for the body. An artificial sweetener is made by taking real sugar and replacing some of its components. Three hydrogen-oxygen groups in real sugar are taken out and three chlorine atoms are put in. The chlorine atoms make the sugar molecule inactive so that it can move through the body and never be metabolized. This new molecule is not recognized by the body so it will have no affect on the body. This is especially true for blood sugar levels and for insulin levels.
The body not recognizing the molecule is what is believed to start the process of weight gain. Over time with the body not recognizing sweetness, the body becomes immune to sweetness and will no longer recognize this and will not associate calories with this. This will cause caloric intake to increase, sometimes drastically. These artificial sweeteners will also interfere with the area of the brain that regulates weight. The chemistry of the brain will start to change and this is also a threat to weight gain.
Purdue University has tackled this issue and had results to back up the weight gain argument. They did a study on rats. One group of rats ate their regular food with yogurt sweetened with real sugar. The other group ate their regular food with yogurt sweetened with the artificial sweetener. The group of rats with the artificial sweetener gained a larger amount of weight than the group with the real sugar. There are critics of this study saying the group of rats was too small and there are other factors that need to be incorporated in.
Another study was done on the rate of obesity and the rate of diet soda purchases. As obesity is increasing, so are the rates of diet soda consumption. It was also seen that products besides sodas that have artificial sweeteners in them were increasing as well. Since artificial sweeteners are in so many different products, it is hard to gauge the true effect they have on the body and how weight is affected.
Diet soda is the second most popular low-calorie, sugar-free product in the United States. The name of “diet” is a bit misleading since we think we are consuming a product that will help us out with our diet plans but instead may be hurting our efforts. The best thing to do to help combat the effects of diet soda is to not drink it at all. If you must have soda, drink the regular version–there are many more healthy alternatives to drinking diet soda.