The new findings come after previous research had suggested that drinks sweetened with artificial sugar might disrupt hormones involved in hunger and satiety cues, causing people to eat more. While others have suggested that the low-calorie but high-sweetness of many diet drinks could confuse consumers taste preferences, leading to altered taste perceptions and a preference for high-calorie and sweet tasting foods.
However, the new research finds that such suggestions are unfounded – revealing instead that those who consume artificially sweetened drinks are no more or less likely to consume a high calorie or sugary food than those who drink water.
“Our study does not provide evidence to suggest that a short-term consumption of diet beverages, compared with water, increases preferences for sweet foods and beverages,” said the authors of the new trial, writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Indeed, the research team, led by Professor Barry Popkin from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, indicated that the diet beverage group “showed decreases in most caloric beverages and specifically reduced more desserts than the water group did.”
Popkin and his research team performed the trial with 318 overweight or obese adults in North Carolina – all of whom said they consumed at least 280 calories’ worth of drinks each day.
One third of the participants were advised to substitute at least two daily servings of sugary beverages with water, while another third was instructed to substitute diet drinks, including Diet Coke and Diet Lipton Tea.
After three and six months, the participants reported their food and beverage intake on two different days in detail.
Those consuming water and diet beverage were shown to reduce their average daily calories relative to the start of the study, from 2,000–2,300 calories to 1,500–1,800 calories.
At both time points, people in the two groups were eating a similar amount of total calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sugar, said Popkin and his colleagues.
After six months, the authors revealed that the only significant different between the water and the diet beverage groups were that those in the water group ate more fruit and vegetables, while those randomised into the diet beverage group consumed fewer desserts, when compared to their own diet habits at the study’s onset.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.048405
“Does diet-beverage intake affect dietary consumption patterns? Results from the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trial”
Authors: Carmen Piernas, Deborah F Tate, Xiaoshan Wang, Barry M Popkin