Researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed data from a US survey of 24,000 people over a period of 10 years. People who were overweight or obese generally consumed the same amount of calories a day no matter what they drank, but those who chose diet drinks got more of those calories from food.
Outside experts were quick to caution that it is not clear what role, if any, diet drinks played for people who ate more.
In the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, overweight drinkers of diet beverages in the US ate 1,965 in food calories a day compared to 1,874 calories among those who drank regular sugar-sweetened beverages. Among obese diet beverage drinkers, those who consumed low- or no-calorie drinks ate 2,058 calories a day in food versus 1,897 food calories for those who had regular drinks.
Such differences were statistically significant, they added.
Lead author Sara Bleich said the results, when paired with other research, suggest that artificial sweeteners may affect people’s metabolism or cravings, although more study is needed.
She acknowledged that people could be deciding to eat more since they are saving calories with their diet drinks.
"The push to diet soda may not make a lot of sense if you are then also eating more solid food," she said. "The switch from a sugary beverage to a diet beverage should be coupled with other changes in the diet, particularly reducing snacks."
Critics said the analysis, based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey between 1999 and 2010, is flawed and that it is too early to say what, if any, role the low-calorie drinks or their artificial sweeteners play in weight loss. -- Reuters
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