Diet soda drinkers more prone to snack on junk food

By Rebecca Burton • Published: December 9th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

In the U.S., approximately 21 percent of the calories consumed in a day are from beverages such as soda, tea, alcohol and coffee. Considering this, it’s no wonder why many people reach for a soda with the word “diet” in the label. You still get the sweet, carbonated goodness but without all the extra calories.

However, a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that those who frequently drink diet soda may still consume the extra calories by snacking on more junk food.

The research team analyzed 10 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey asked participants to record everything they ate or drank for two days in a row. The survey also took into account the nutritional details of the foods and drinks.

The results showed that when a participant picked a diet soda, they were more likely to snack on greater amounts of sweets and fried fare. But, those who chose the drinks with normal amounts of sugar were less likely to snack on these fat- and sugar-heavy foods. The results also showed that obese participants who drank diet soda were more likely to eat more junk food than the normal-weight participants who also drank diet beverages.

The lead author said the results are most likely due to what he calls a “compensation effect,” meaning participants who drink a diet beverage may feel better about eating other high-calorie foods, so they don’t feel as bad about reaching for the cheese fries.

Another 2013 study showed similar results. Therefore, researchers suggest that if you reach for the low-calorie drink options, you should pay close attention to the food you are choosing. Low-calorie drinks aren’t a free pass to eat poorly.