Contrary to popular belief, diet soda and other foods and beverages made with artificial sweeteners like aspartame are not healthy, and they do not bring about weight loss.
A landmark new study out of Texas confirms this, having found that not only do diet sodas not help with weight loss, but they actually cause both weight gain and health problems.
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC) at San Antonio gathered ten years worth of data on 474 participants from a larger, ongoing study called the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. Among these participants, those that consumed two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were a shocking six times greater than those who did not drink diet soda.
“Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,” said Helen P. Hazuda, a study researcher and professor at the UTHSC school of medicine. “They may be free of calories, but not of consequences.”
Presented at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the findings debunk the false notion that drinking diet beverages is beneficial for weight loss. Since consuming them actually leads to a 70 percent increase in waist size compared to those who do not drink them, it is clear that using the name “diet” is, in and of itself, misleading.
In a related study presented at the same time, researchers also found that aspartame, a commonly-used chemical sweetener in diet foods and beverages, is actually responsible for raising blood sugar levels. In tests using mice, those that consumed chow with added aspartame experienced elevated blood sugar levels compared to mice simply eating regular chow.
“These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans,” said Gabriel Fernandes, researcher of that study and professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at UTHSC.
A 2008 study published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found similar results when testing the effects of saccharin, another type of artificial sweetener, compared to sugar.
Rats in that study that were fed saccharin gained more weight than rats fed an equivalent amount of plain sugar.
“There’s something about diet foods that changes your metabolic limit, your brain chemistry,” said Dr. Marie Savard, a medical contributor for ABC News, in response to those findings. “The truth is, we’re putting artificial sweetener in so many different things: in water, in yogurt. We have to rethink what this artificial stuff does to us.”
A 2010 study conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases adds to this, having found that the body’s reaction to the ingestion of artificial sweeteners appears to be brain confusion over how exactly to process it, which in and of itself is implicated in causing various other negative consequences.
US Food and Drug Administration adverse event reports going back several decades indicate that artificial sweeteners like aspartame are also responsible for destroying brain neurons, which in turn leads to a host of chronic illnesses.
These include, but are not limited to, chronic headaches, seizures, strokes, vascular disorders, heart disease, premature birth, dementia and other brain disorders, and cancer