There’s constant back and forth over whether diet soda is actually healthy to consume or not. A new study is unlikely to settle that debate, but it is a useful illustration of junk science.
Here’s the deal: A new study, conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, says that diet soda helps you lose weight! In fact, it claims that drinking diet soda is better for weight loss than drinking water! If you are a rational person, you probably immediate said “BULLS***!” upon reading that sentence, and you’re right, but it takes a little work to spot the BS.
Your first clue that maybe the Anschutz Center is not the most scientifically rigorous facility comes from its website, which promotes the “Colorado Diet” and being featured on Extreme Weight Loss, both concepts that anybody discussing long-term weight loss plans tend to mock. Then you browse the press release and find this at the bottom:
The study was supported by the American Beverage Association (ABA), a Washington, DC-based trade association. It was peer-reviewed and posted on http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Neither ABA, nor any of its members, was involved in any part of the study, its analysis or the writing of this paper.
Riiiiiiiight, OK, sure, the people paying for the study in no way influenced it. Uh-huh. Finally, CBS reveals what’s really going on:
One half of the group was asked to drink at least 24 ounces of diet drinks per day, along with as much water as they wanted. People in the water group could drink 24 ounces of water each day but no soda; they were permitted to consume food products containing sugar substitutes, such as yogurt, gum, candy and ice cream, but could not add artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Equal to their coffee or tea.
For the study to properly make the claims it does, which is that diet soda is more effective than water at losing weight, you’d think that one group would be limited to 24 ounces of one and one group 24 ounces of the other. But apparently not!
The good news is that basically, this study translates out to “drinking diet soda is probably not going to kill you any more than anything else you eat.” Most of the studies saying diet soda is AIDS in a can are just as questionable. One recent one saying diet soda actually makes you fat was just an analysis of diet soda drinkers and waistline circumference over time. They make vague gestures at a mouse study involving aspartame, but the truth is, the “study” doesn’t tell us much other than that there’s a correlation between people being fat and drinking diet soda a lot. Gee. What a stunning revelation.
So, no, diet soda will not magically make you lose weight faster. Only counting calories and getting exercise, and sticking to a diet and exercise plan, will make you lose weight. But at least you don’t have to worry about drinking diet beverages.