Diet sodas are popular beverages all over the world, especially among people who want to reduce their sugar or calorie intake.
Instead of sugar, artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, cyclamates, saccharin, acesulfame-k, or sucralose, are used to sweeten them.
Almost every popular sugar-sweetened beverage on the market has a “light” or a “diet” version — Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero, etc.
Diet sodas were first introduced in the 1950s for people with diabetes, though they were later marketed to people trying to control their weight or reduce their sugar intake.
Despite being free of sugar and calories, the health effects of diet drinks and artificial sweeteners are controversial.
Effects on weight loss are conflicting
Because diet soda is usually calorie-free, it would be natural to assume it could aid weight loss. However, research suggests the association may not be so straightforward.
Several observational studies have found that using artificial sweeteners and drinking high amounts of diet soda is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Scientists have suggested that diet soda may increase appetite by stimulating hunger hormones, altering sweet taste receptors, and triggering dopamine responses in the brain.
Given that diet soft drinks have no calories, these responses may cause a higher intake of sweet or calorie-dense foods, resulting in weight gain. However, evidence of this is not consistent in human studies
However, to add to the confusion, there’s evidence of bias in the scientific literature. Studies funded by the artificial sweetener industry have been found to have more favorable outcomes than non-industry studies, which may undermine the validity of their results.
Overall, more high quality research is needed to determine the true effects of diet soda on weight loss.