The science of why you might want to kick your diet soda habit

(VOX)  Fake sugars may mess up your gut microbes and your body’s insulin response.

Diet sodas have long been marketed as weight loss tools. The idea is that they allow people to enjoy the sweetness of regular soda, but without all the calories and weight gain.

Some scientists, however, are highly skeptical that diet soft drinks, which contain artificial sweeteners, actually deliver on those marketing claims. And evidence seems is mounting that diet sodas and artificial sweeteners may actually promote weight gain.

“The big controversy in this area is whether artificial sweeteners and diet beverages might be contributing to the obesity epidemic and a parallel diabetes epidemic, which is exactly what they’re supposed to help curb,” explained Vasanti Malik, a Harvard researcher who has studied diet soda.

A new study, published last week in PLOS, tracked users of low-calorie sweeteners in soda for 10 years and compared them with people who don’t use artificial sugar. It found that the low-calorie sweetener users were heavier, and had larger waist circumferences and more abdominal obesity than the non-users. “These data suggest that low-calorie sweetener consumption may deleteriously affect visceral fat deposition, a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality,” the researchers concluded.

Another study from 2008 looked at the relationship between consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and long-term weight gain in 3,682 people. Drinking diet soda was associated with an almost doubled risk of overweight and obesity. “These findings raise the question whether artificial sweeteners use might be fueling — rather than fighting — our escalating obesity epidemic,” the authors of that study wrote.

Other research on diabetes has come to similarly startling conclusions. A 2015 study in theBritish Medical Journal analyzed all the best available research on the association between sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened drinks, juices, and Type 2 diabetes. The findings were startling: Regular consumption of sugary drinks was associated with diabetes — but so was consumption of diet drinks.

Source: The science of why you might want to kick your diet soda habit – Vox