Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Popping the bubble: Are diet sodas making us fat?


A fellow dietitian recently sent me a link to the latest release from Hungry for Change in the hopes that I would be prompted to rant as a result. Fortunately, she was correct. This release features Dr. Mercola criticizing diet sodas and blaming them for making us fat, among other things. To begin with I’d just like to say that I’m no big fan of sodas, diet or not, and I’m always going to be a proponent of whole, natural foods. However, I know that many people are lovers of pop and for those who are trying to lose weight or reduce sugar consumption, diet sodas can be a reasonable replacement or tool to assist in weaning them from pop entirely.

The first thing that I did after receiving the above link was to look-up Dr. Mercola on QuackWatch. Not only is he making huge profits from a line of supplements, he has also been ordered by the FDA to stop illegal claims. What were these claims? They were unsubstantiated claims regarding the benefits of some of the products he sells. In addition to this issue, he has made other unfounded claims such as: opposing immunization, fluoridation, and mammography. Not to mention that he’s received a boost in sales and popularity from being repeatedly featured on the Dr. Oz Show, and we all know how credible that doc is.

So, we know that the guy making all the claims is a quack, but it’s still possible that there’s some validity to the claims about diet soda (I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt!). The basic argument is that because diet soda drinkers waistlines are rapidly expanding this must be due to the diet soda. The problem with this assertion is that there are many confounding variables that could be causing this increase in waist size. For instance, diet soda drinkers are likely consuming diet soda because they are struggling with weight issues to begin with. There is no way that cause and effect can be determined from observation. It was thought that the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners caused our bodies to crave true caloric sweets, and this is the argument made by Mercola. However, more recent research (1, 2) has disputed this finding and shown that there is no link between diet soda and increased appetite.

While I am not a fan of pop and artificial sweeteners I am even less of a fan of unsubstantiated health claims. Curbing the obesity epidemic is not going to be achieved through the elimination of diet sodas. No one simple change to our diets is going to “cure” obesity, even if diet soda was the culprit Hungry for Change and Dr. Mercola would have you believe. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: obesity is not a result of individual choices it’s a result of our current environment.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

3 thoughts on “Popping the bubble: Are diet sodas making us fat?

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this controversial claim. I think that as Dietitians it is important that we are constantly keeping an eye out for people like Dr. Mercola who do seem to have a large following in the public. I did a quick research on pennutrition on the effect of artificial sweeteners on craving for sweets, on migraines and whether they have any effect on diabetes management. Results are large negative. Non nutritive sweeteners are safe to use as long as consumption is below the accepted daily intake (in the case of aspartame below 40 mg/kg body weight). On migraines, no causal effect has been demonstrated by any of the studies. Non-nutritive sweeteners also do not affect glycemic control in individuals with diabetes. Bottom line is that artificially sweetened drinks are OK if in moderation. For diabetics and overweight individuals who are struggling to cut back on soft drinks, I usually suggest that they can have one to two diet drinks per day. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

    Thanks again. Please do feel free to check and comment on my blog, esp. http://eatpraygrow.wordpress.com/category/eat/the-abcd-of-healthy-eating-eat/. It would be good to compare the Australian guide to Healthy eating to the My Plate model. :) Cheers! :) xx


  2. Pingback: Is there poison in your water? | bite my words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s