Diet Beverage Drinkers Make Up the Calories With Unhealthy Foods
According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who choose diet beverages make up the calories by snacking on unhealthy foods. Ruopeng An, PhD, of University of Illinois and his colleagues studied 10 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They looked at the diets of study participants who drank coffee, tea, sugar sweetened beverages, diet beverages, and alcohol for diet quality.
An and his colleagues found that discretionary foods (cookies, fries, ice cream, and pastries) were eaten in greater amounts by those who chose the diet version of otherwise sugary drinks. They also found that obese participants who chose diet beverages consumed more calories from discretionary foods than normal weight participants who chose the sugar-sweetened beverages. An described it as a “compensatory effect,” possibly with the diet beverage drinkers feeling justified in eating more or that they need to eat more in order to feel satisfied. Conversely, the participants might have consumed the diet beverage to compensate for the discretionary foods they ate.
While the causes for this caloric compensation are unknown, it should give individuals who choose diet beverages something to think about. People who are using diet beverages as a way of cutting out calories to lose weight may wind up eating the calories they do not drink. While further research into the topic is warranted before any conclusions can be drawn, the study should prompt individuals to take a closer look into their own diets. The study did show that 90% of participants ate discretionary foods daily, adding up to almost 500 calories. This is crucial, as reducing calories by 500 a day every day can lead to weight loss of 1 pound per week.
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