The first study took two groups of rats and fed them a sweet, flavored, soda-like liquid. The first group was given a liquid sweetened only by sugar. The second group was given liquid that changed from liquids sweetened with saccharin sweetener to that with real sugar. Within 10 days, the rats were exposed to high-calorie chocolate pudding. The group of rats who had eaten both artificial sweeteners and traditional sugar ate more of the pudding than the other group of rats. A separate study was also conducted. During this study the rats were fed high-calorie pudding or chocolate milk along with their regular food. The results showed that at the end of 30 days the group fed chocolate milk had gained significantly more weight. So what does this mean to you and I? Based on the first experiment, it seems that the body’s connection between sweet taste and calories is disrupted by artificial sweeteners, as they inhibit the body’s ability to judge caloric intake. Based on the second experiment, we can see that the body has trouble recognizing energy amounts delivered via liquids. In other words, researchers concluded that you gain more weight when you drink artificial sweeteners than you would drinking traditional sodas.
The other issue is many people assume they can drown a Big Mac with a diet soda and not gain weight. They feel they’re doing their body a favor by not consuming traditional, high-calorie soda. That’s not the case. The calories from the hamburger and French fries remain, leading to weight gain if consumed regularly. Despite the inconsistent link between weight gain and diet sodas, there is still cause for concern. Sharon Fowler, MPH, who led a similar San Antonio study had this to say about artificial sweeteners, “I’m not convinced these sweeteners are as safe as they should be, given their widespread use, I’m concerned we’re in the middle of a giant experiment.” Until we know for sure, it might be best to avoid diet soda altogether. You don’t want to end up like the oversized rats in this study, so it might be better to just chug those eight glasses of water and leave the soda alone.