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A new study out of Johns Hopkins University shows that overweight and obese people who drink diet beverages consume more calories from food than heavy people who consume sugary drinks.
Compared to people who drink sweetened beverages, heavy people with a diet-soda habit actually consume more daily calories from food, the study finds.
“Diet-soda drinkers who are overweight or obese are eating more solid food during the day than overweight and obese people who drink sugary beverages,” said study researcher Sara Bleich, associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
It’s thought that the artificial sweeteners used in the diet drinks may disrupt the brain’s sweet sensors, she said. “If you consume artificial sweeteners, it makes the brain think you are less satiated or full, and as a result you eat more,” she said.
Overweight people who reported drinking diet beverages took in 88 more calories a day from solid food than those who drank sugary beverages, the researchers found. And obese participants who drank diet drinks consumed nearly 200 more calories a day from food than obese men and women who drank sugary drinks.
The study of nearly 24,000 U.S. adults also found that normal-weight adults who drank artificially sweetened beverages consumed fewer calories than normal-weight adults who drank regular sweetened drinks. Bleich said she can’t explain why normal-weight people don’t appear to eat more calories.
“The results of our study suggest that overweight and obese adults looking to lose or maintain their weight–who have already made the switch from sugary to diet beverages–may need to look carefully at other components of their solid-food diet, particularly sweet snacks, to potentially identify areas for modification,” said Bleich.