Many people drink diet soda with the understanding that this habit will help them lose weight, or at least not put on pounds. Two new studies suggest, however, that they may be disappointed. In one study, almost 500 people over 65 years of age were followed up for 10 years. Those who drank diet soda had a 70 percent greater growth in girth than those who stuck with plain water. Big bellies are a known risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.
It seems puzzling that a beverage without calories could contribute to weight gain, but the other study may offer some explanation. It was mouse research in which one group of mice was given chow mixed with the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet) while the other group got ordinary unsweetened lab chow. After three months, the mice eating artificially sweetened chow had higher blood sugar than the control mice. Although scientists do not fully understand the mechanism, they suspect this could be related to human weight gain associated with diet drinks.
[American Diabetes Association annual meeting, June 26, 2011,San Diego, CA]