Why Diet Soda May Backfire When It Comes to Weight Loss
Men's Health 2hrs ago

Soda kind of deserves its bad reputation.

Pop is loaded with sugar, which is high in calories. As you know, a diet that is high in calories can contribute to weight gain. And weight gain can lead to a whole host of particularly thorny health challenges (diabetes and heart disease, just to name two of the many).

But diet soda contains no sugar and so it also contains no calories. Surely diet soda, which is just a mix of carbonated water, artificial sweeteners, and some coloring agents isn't that bad for you, right?

In fact, diet soda seems like a great alternative to regular old pop, because all those numbers on the nutritional label read zero—no calories, carbs, or sugar.

At face value, that argument seems solid: You get enjoy the flavor of soda without all the dangers of soda. Plus, just how different is diet soda compared to seltzer? Both are no-calorie and no-sugar.

Except that the truth is a little more complicated than just the absence of calories and sugar. What’s worth considering, experts say, is that the sweetness of artificial sugar—which is far, far sweeter than the flavoring of any seltzer option—might be toying with your taste buds.

logo: Click here for your all-access pass to Men’s Health. © . Click here for your all-access pass to Men’s Health.

Plus, there’s the whole issue of what you should probably be drinking instead of diet soda for weight loss—and your general overall health.

And according to some dietitians, it turns out the diet soda may not be as healthy and good for your waistline after all. Here’s what dietitian Ilyse Schapiro, M.S., R.D., has to say about it.

What is Diet Soda?

Diet soda is a zero-calorie, sugar-free version of a carbonated beverages. For example: to give the diet soda its classic sweet taste, Diet Coke contains aspartame and Splenda, both of which are artificial sweeteners, which contain no actual sugar or calories.

That said, artificial sweeteners can be between 200 to 600 times sweeter than table sugar, says Schapiro. So while diet soda is calorie[ and sugar-free, it can still taste sugary.

Can Diet Soda Lead to Weight Gain?

While scientific evidence has not yet confirmed a direct link between diet soda or artificial sweeteners and weight gain, there may be some indirect associations.

Black man holding soda cup © Steve Prezant Black man holding soda cup

“Consumption of these non-nutritive sweeteners and others, such as acesulfame K and saccharin, have been linked to heightened sugar cravings, weight gain, higher BMI's, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease, and increased risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes,” Schapiro says. “Yet, it is unclear whether diet soda is the sole cause of these negative effects,” she adds.

These hyper-palatable sweeteners can disrupt and over-stimulate your sugar receptors, says Schapiro, and, as a result, diet soda drinkers may experience heightened sugar cravings and choose less nutritious foods.

Does Drinking Diet Soda Have and Side Effects?

Even though diet soda doesn't have sugar or calories, it does still contain phosphorus, which if consumed in excess, may lead to deterioration of bone density with age and heighten risk of osteoporosis. (Yes, even in men!) Of course this doesn’t mean much if you have one or two, but if diet soda is your jam and you’re drinking them like water, they surely add up.

a close up of a man holding a camera: Drinking a can © MarioGuti Drinking a can

“Just one 12 oz. can of Diet Coke contains 27 mg of phosphorus, so chugging a few cans a day is not recommended,” she says. “Plus, drinking Diet Coke can cause bloating since gas is added to this beverage to create bubbles and carbonation,” she adds.

a pizza sitting on top of a book: A Man, A Pan, A Plan: 100 Delicious & Nutritious One-Pan Recipes You Can Make Right Now!: A Cookbook © amazon.com A Man, A Pan, A Plan: 100 Delicious & Nutritious One-Pan Recipes You Can Make Right Now!: A Cookbook

Shop Now

Due to its carbonation and artificial sweetener content, drinking diet soda can cause gas, bloating, upset stomach, and water retention. “These factors can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and alter the microbiome,” she says. (And that can make it seem like you’re gaining weight too—or at least retaining water, getting sick and not dropping those pounds.)

What’s more, there are no nutrients, so you’re not doing your body any favors that might aid in weight loss efforts “Although [diet soda] holds virtually no calories and the research on its health effects are conflicting, this popular drink holds no nutritional value to your overall diet,” she says.

The Bottom Line on Diet Soda and Weight Loss

If you’re a regular soda drinker, opt for unsweetened seltzer instead. “This sparkling beverage will still give you bubbles and no calories, but without the artificial flavors or potentially harmful additives,” she suggests.

Try 200+ at home workout videos from Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, and more on All Out Studio free for 14 days!

Show More
Latest News
20 must-read health books
The Health section of your local bookstore or online book retailer looks different than it did a couple of decades ago, when titles like Food-Free at Last: How I Learned to Eat Air or The South Beach Diet Supercharged were popular picks. Still today, authors—including would-be physicians, B-list celebs and underqualified fitness experts—dole out “health advice,” trying to convince readers that running themselves ragged with dieting and strenuous exercise will make them thinner, prettier, and happier. In fact, it has had an adverse effect, especially on women. The cruel dieting culture, incessant calorie counting, and little to no representation of health experts from diverse communities, along with the unrealistic standards set by the beauty and fashion industries, have led to eating disorders and severe mental health issues. Today, coupled with wellness, the topics covered in health and well-being books focus more on making healthy choices daily, keeping active, practising self-care, and being mindful of our mental health. Thanks to the body positivity movement, and some notable influencers in this space, we know that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. This is also a time when we are hearing from more underrepresented voices in this space, making health advice and wellness tips more inclusive and relevant for all. Start the new year off with motivation, stories, and advice on how to live a healthier, happier life that works for you. Get moving by adding these 20 must-read health books to your cart.
5 Minutes| Espresso