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August 8 2015

Alarmism About Diet Drinks Harms Dieters

Julie Gunlock

Recently, on a closed Facebook diet forum of which I’m a member, a woman posted this about her struggle to control her sweet tooth:

Okay guys I need some help…I am struggling so much with this sweet tooth of mine. I have come so far but these last 2 weeks have been the most difficult for me…any advice please.

In response, posters suggested a variety of low-calorie treats she should try. Some provided recipes for dessert hacks they’d developed. Some suggested certain diet products sold in the grocery store. One woman wrote: “My favorite treat was my diet soda before bedtime…”

That comment reminded me of that anti-diet soda infographic that went viral last week. You probably remember it. If not, here’s a description from The Daily Mail:

A UK pharmacist has shocked fizzy drink fans by releasing a step-by-step guide to the dramatic way a can of Diet Coke affects the body from 10 minutes after the first sip until an hour later. Niraj Naik, who runs The Renegade Pharmacist blog, has created an eye-opening infographic that exposes how the sugar-free drink can wreak havoc on everything from your teeth to your waistline.

Plenty of articles have been written to debunk Naik’s ridiculous claims (here and here) and CEI’s Greg Conko and Michelle Minton developed an absolutely hilarious alternative infographic showing how you become a sanctimonious jerk 10-minutes after drinking a kale smoothy (see it here), yet I think Naik’s scaremongering is the sort of thing that lingers in people’s minds and makes them afraid to enjoy the occasional diet drink.

And sadly, that will hit dieters the hardest. There’s clear evidence that diet drinks really do help dieters. It not only provides them a calorie-free treat now and then, diet drinks help reign in appetite. NPR’s The Salt reported on this appetite leveling effect of diet drinks:

Danish researcher Bjorn Richelsen of Aarhus University Hospital compared what happened when volunteers drank Diet Coke, water, milk and sugar-sweetened Coke.

"Our conclusion was quite clear," says Richelsen. Sugary coke led people to be slightly hungrier and to eat more. But Diet Coke had a more neutral effect on appetite. Volunteers did not increase their caloric intake in the four hours after drinking Diet Coke.

And another study, published last year in journal Obesity, found that dieters who drank diet sodas while dieting (as opposed to dieters who just drank water) lost 4 pounds more than dieters who didn’t drink diet soda.

Could it be that those who drank diet soda while dieting had an outlet to satisfy those sweet cravings? Could it be that it was easier to stay on a strict diet if one could have a non-calorie sweet beverage now and then?

The American public is constantly told “You’re too fat!” while also being told “DIET DRINKS ARE SCARY!”

This needs to stop. Diet aids are important for those trying to lose weight. Those tools shouldn’t be taken away by make believe alarmist messages pushed by bloggers trying to make a name for themselves.

I hope the woman on that diet forum figures out a way to control her sweet tooth. If she ignores the alarmists and drinks a Diet Coke instead of a milkshake, she’ll be fine. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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