Let’s say that you–like me, and about 99 percent of the rest of the population of the United States–are always trying to lose a few pounds. Should “diet sodas” be part of your weight loss regimen? It’s a good question, and one that has produced lots of conflicting data. Some studies indicate that diet drinks are helpful, while others show the opposite.
The most recent study looked at the effect of diet sodas sweetened with sucralose on appetite. It concluded that, for women and people who are struggling with obesity, those beverages caused increased activity in the parts of the brain that control appetite and food cravings and also caused a decline in the level of hormones that communicate that “full stomach” feeling. Participants in the study consumed the same quantities of fluids–plain water, diet soda with sucralose, and beverages sweetened with sugar–and then had their brains scanned by MRIs to gather the brain activity data while they were being shown photos of enticing foods like donuts and juicy cheeseburgers (which really seems like unfair entrapment, when you think about it).
One of the researchers concluded: “By studying different groups we were able to show that females and people with obesity may be more sensitive to artificial sweeteners. For these groups, drinking artificially sweetened drinks may trick the brain into feeling hungry, which may in turn result in more calories being consumed.”
I used to be a regular consumer of diet drinks, but I’ve pretty much stopped–mostly because my tastes changed and I’m a cheapskate, besides. I try to stick to water and coffee, and if I really feel like I want something with a more distinctive flavor I’ll put a few drops of lemon or lime juice into my water glass. A cold glass of tap water or a cup of hot coffee are pretty satisfying, when you get right down to it.