Diet Soda Deception

Robot doll
Robot doll

Among those who are serious about shedding pounds, one of the standard joke targets is the person who eats a huge, calorie-laden meal accompanied by a diet soft drink. In the industry, corporate public-relations experts come up with justifications that make an end run around the glaring fact that their products are saturated either with sugar, which is bad enough, or with artificial sweeteners, which are even worse. The beverage cartel encourages millions of people to deceive themselves in a particularly harmful way, by believing that “diet” soft drinks are not only harmless but will do them some good.

When it comes to standard sugar-sweetened beverages, many warnings have been issued, like this one from the Mayors’ Group:

Sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet and account for half of all added sugars consumed…. Each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood that a child will become obese by about 60 percent, according to one study.

The recommendation of the American Heart Association is that sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) be limited to no more than three 12-ounce cans per week, but the average American now consumes twice that amount.

But what about diet soft drinks? One big problem is, they are still fizzy, and a study published in Gastroenterology claims that the fizziness itself is hazardous because it fools the brain into craving sugar. This was shown by research done at the University of Naples using the technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging, which has been used for many purposes in the recent past. The scientists tested people who consumed drinks made with either real sugar or artificial sweeteners, and found that fizz has the same effect in both cases. For, Stephen Walkiewicz wrote:

Researchers found that carbonation tricks the brain into thinking that soft drinks are less sweet [than] they actually are. Convinced it needs more, your body demands sugar, increasing your appetite. It’s a vicious cycle that actually encourages weight gain…. In other words, carbonation dulls the mind’s ability to understand just how much sugar it’s taking in.

Writing for AlterNet,org, Martha Rosenberg listed three reasons why artificial sweeteners are harmful. For one thing, they are suspected of somehow slowing the body’s metabolism. Second, they separate normal, healthy food-seeking behavior from the reward the body expects from eating — i.e., the delivery of some real nutrients — and this creates a craving for sweets. Third, a beverage advertised as containing a supposedly better artificial sweetener might also contain natural sweetener, which is kind of pointless as well as deceptive.

Rosenberg quotes Marion Nestle, a New York University professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, who has better resources than the average person for looking up the facts. She hasn’t found “any convincing evidence that proves artificial sweeteners help people to lose weight.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Mayors’ Group Urged to Ditch Deal with Soda Industry,”, 11/03/11
Source: “One More Reason to Drop Diet Sodas,”, undated
Source: “Americans Are Huge: 5 Surprising Reasons Why We May Be Getting Fatter,”, 03/12/14
Image by JD Hancodk

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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