North Carolina researchers studying the effect of diet drinks on overweight people maintain that these beverages don't increase appetite. Their findings contradict a number of studies that blame over-consumption of food on these drinks.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists found that drinking diet sodas doesn't necessarily cause a craving for sweets and more calories, according to Medical News Today. Their report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that patients who consumed diet beverages showed decreases in most caloric beverages and ate fewer desserts than subjects in a group that consumed water. Diet drinks, they reported, don't increase appetite or cause people to eat a lot of fatty or sugary food any more than drinking water does.
The Chapel Hill researchers' findings contrast with those of a number of studies that have blamed diet drinks -- most often diet soda -- on fostering overeating. Even the Cleveland Clinic has labeled drinking diet soda without gaining weight a myth and linked the practice to Type 2 diabetes.
The North Carolina scientists observed 318 overweight or obese subjects who consumed at least 280 calories a day in drinks. They were evenly divided into two groups. The first substituted water for a minimum of two daily servings of sugary drinks. The other group used diet drinks -- Diet Mountain Dew, Diet Lipton Tea, and Diet Coke -- as replacements. After three and six months, each group reported what they ate and drank on two days.
Both groups reduced average daily calories from 2,000 to 2,300 at the start of the study to 1,500 to 1,800. All subjects ate a comparable amount of carbohydrates, fat, sugar, and total calories at the three- and six-month intervals. At the six-month point, the water drinkers consumed more fruits and vegetables, while the diet beverage group ate less dessert than at the onset of the study.
The North Carolina team acknowledges that their findings don't absolve diet beverages from all negative effects on health. One study reported that individuals who drank beverages made with sugar or artificial sugar over a 14-year period had a greater likelihood of developing diabetes than those who drank water.
Other research linked sweetened or diet beverages to an elevated risk of depression. In addition, since all subjects in the North Carolina study were overweight, the study's findings might not apply to individuals of average weight.
For 10 years, I've had a love affair with one of the diet sodas used in the study and have been overweight by roughly 20 pounds. The findings cited unfortunately didn't specify the exact quantity of diet beverages consumed. Whenever I drink more than two 12-ounce cans of diet soda a day, I crave fatty, sugary food. My personal experience appears to contradict the conclusion that it's wrong to blame diet drinks for boosting appetite.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.