Soda lovers have long turned to diet drinks to help them curb sugar cravings and reduce their overall calorie intake. Some have even started using natural sweeteners, like stevia, in an attempt to steer clear of aspartame, while still gaining the perceived benefits of diet soda. A study published this month in the International Journal of Obesity has some bad news for people trying to cut calories through diet drinks, both artificial and natural: Consuming soda sweetened with aspartame, stevia, or monk fruit does not appear to have any effect on overall calorie intake.
In this study, people were split into four groups: one drank a regular soda-like beverage, one drank an aspartame-sweetened beverage (like a typical diet soda), one drank a stevia-sweetened beverage, and the last group drank a monk fruit–sweetened beverage. Aspartame, stevia, and monk fruit are all non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS) that do not contribute any calories to the diet. Previously, it was thought that people who consumed beverages sweetened with these NNSs would eat fewer total calories throughout the day because none of their calories were coming from drinks. This turned out not to be the case in this study. Though the participants were given a set breakfast, they were free to eat what they wanted throughout the rest of the day and were told to keep track of what they consumed. The end result was that all of the groups consumed about the same number of calories. The only difference was that the group that drank a sugar-sweetened beverage got a portion of their calories from the beverage itself.
This study suggests that when people drink diet sodas, even those sweetened with stevia, they make up for it by eating more later in the day. These findings contradict previously published, longer-term studies, making it clear that more research must be done on the topic. A safe bet? Stick to unsweetened drinks like water or Hint!
What are your favorite tips for avoiding natural and artificial zero-calorie sweeteners? Tell us in the comments below!