This week I wanted to answer the very common question, “Instead of water, can I drink 0 calorie beverages such as: Vitamin Water, diet sodas, diet ice tea, etc.?” Admittedly, there is a tremendous amount of controversy around diet soda and weight loss; in this article we will tackle this question once and for all.
For those of you who are in a rush, the short answer is “No.” For those of you who want a bit more explanation, let me explain…
The body is extremely efficient at digestion and absorption. In fact, the body is so efficient that you start to see changes in the blood the moment you taste food, even before you have absorbed any nutrients!
When you taste something sweet, such as fruit, the brain sends a signal to the pancreas to prepare for sugar. The pancreas, the overachiever that it is, decides to squirt a little insulin into the blood in preparation for the sugar calories. The problem with artificial sweeteners is you get the sizzle without the steak; the sweet taste causes the insulin production without any sugar actually entering the blood. So why is this a problem?
There are two reasons: First, any increase in insulin will shut off fat loss. Second, the insulin will cause your blood sugar to drop, which promotes hunger and rebound eating.
Research confirms that drinking artificially sweetened beverages does, in fact, promote weight gain, not weight loss. In the San Antonio Heart Study, people who consumed artificially sweetened beverages over the course of 7 years increased their body mass index (BMI) by 47%! The more artificially sweetened beverages they consumed on a daily basis, the more overweight they became.
For those of you who like stevia, xylitol and other natural calorie-free sweeteners, unfortunately, this research likely applies to them as well. It isn’t the chemical itself that poses a risk; it’s the sweet taste.
As you can see, water is the way to go. If you have tried to drink water and it is just too bland, try adding lemon and/or a bit of cranberry concentrate to the water. Remember, tart is ok, sweet is not.
Dr. Ray Hinish is a nutritional pharmacist, certified personal trainer, & certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. He currently practices in Baltimore, MD, where he owns and operates a wellness center and natural foods restaurant. His mission is to help folks to live their health potential so that they can pursue their passions with confidence and endless supplies of energy!