Conflicting health advice is nothing new. Sometimes it feels like that’s the only form in which advice comes. But for soda lovers, things have been especially grim. First they (whoever “they” is) told us that sugary drinks are bad and we should switch to diet soda. Then came word that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda are also a problem, and we should all just drink water and live in a yoga studio to survive.
Now there's more bad news for diet soda drinkers: According to a recent study published in the journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who drink diet beverages tend to think saving calories on soda gives them a free pass to grub down on other unhealthy foods later. Yeah, duh. Isn’t that the whole point?
According to the Washington Post, researchers looked at data from 22,513 adults between 2003 and 2012. What they discovered was that on days when people drank low calorie drinks like coffee and diet beverages, they indeed consumed fewer calories overall compared to those who drank high calorie beverages like regular soda or alcohol. However, those diet soda and coffee consumers also had the largest increase in calories from unhealthy foods on those days—meaning switching to diet beverages was saving them calories, but not actually making them any healthier.
“When people consume diet beverages, they need to be more cautious about consuming additional calories from discretionary foods, because that will completely undo the weight-control purpose,” Ruopeng An, a University of Illinois professor and the study’s lead author, told the Post. “We don't know what mechanism or mix of mechanisms is at work,” he continued. “But at least this gives us something to think about in terms of people's dietary behaviors.”
Though it’s not like using your savings inappropriately is uncommon. Remember how you used your “emergency fund” to take a trip to Hawaii? This is the same thing, only in soda form. Now pass me a Diet Coke and a stick of butter.