I realize that how I answer this question has the potential to make me wildly unpopular. And I’m OK with that. I’m sure that’s clear from this headline. The comparison to the devil may sound a tad extreme, but I say that because diet soda makes you do things that you didn’t intend to do in the first place. It tricks you. Confuses you. And sets you up to fail. I’ll explain…
Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking that sugar is on the way. Even just the thought of sweetness triggers a whole set of hormonal and metabolic reactions to get the body ready for incoming sugar. But what happens when the sugar isn’t delivered? And instead, what’s incoming is just this foreign substance that to your taste buds tastes like sugar, but that your body doesn’t know what to do with? Dr. Hyman talks about it in more detail in his blog post and compares what happens to Pavlov’s dog experiment. He trained dogs to connect the ringing of a bell with food. By the end the dogs were salivating just at the sound of the bell in anticipation of being fed. So here, the artificial sweetener (aspartame, saccharin…) is the bell. The body prepares itself for incoming calories … but there are none. The body goes, “Where’s the sugar?!?!?!” It’s gotten all ready for it. And just like Pavlov’s dog’s, now it wants it. And there in lies the connection between diet soda and weight gain. You see, because it makes you do bad things like eat an entire bag of cookies. Because you’re looking for that sugar.
Studies show that the chemical reactions these sweeteners create in the body actually stimulate appetite and can cause you to eat more food overall. Studies done on rats also show a drop in core body temperate meaning their metabolism slowed down (Eek!). So, yes, you might be saving a few calories in that one soda, but the important thing is – what is it making you do later?
My point here is not to ruin your day. I’m really sorry if I did. It’s just to echo what Dr. Hyman says at the end of his post: go ahead and have a little sugar. One packet of sugar is about 10 calories. If you need a little sweet, just use that instead of the yellow one. Stop tricking your body. It’s mean. That’s all.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.