Water vs. Diet Soda: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

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Those seeking to lose weight should consider avoiding diet sodas because they could be hampering one’s weight-loss goals, says a new study from the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

Researchers put two panels of female patients on a weight-loss program and instituted one key change between them – following a meal, one group drank water and the other group consumed diet soda.

After 24 weeks, the results showed a clear advantage to those who bypassed diet soda and drank water. While both groups lost weight, the water-only group saw an average weight loss of 14.1 pounds – or 22 percent more weight lost than the group that drank diet soda, which dropped an average of 11.5 pounds.

“Our results are very interesting,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Hamid Farshchi, a professor at the University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences, in a statement. “We think that by drinking water instead of sweet-tasting diet drinks, the women may be adhering better to the weight loss diet because artificial sweeteners may increase desire for sweetened and more energy dense foods.”

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The sweet taste of diet soda, which is calorie-free but full of artificial sweeteners, may have a compound effect on dieters, suggests the study.

“Many obese people trying to lose weight believe that low calorie or diet drinks can help them to lose weight. This study shows that while they can still lose weight, they may not be losing as much as they would if they drank water in place of diet drinks,” said Dr. Ian Macdonald, professor of metabolic physiology at the University of Nottingham and one of the study authors.

The water group also saw a greater decrease in body mass index, one of the key markers of overall health. Both groups saw significant reduction in waist circumference and an improvement in heart health, which goes to confirm the overall health benefits of weight loss.

Finding an Effect on Diabetes Control

Weight loss isn’t the only area affected by a consumer’s preference for diet soda, according to the study. The research team also examined the important aspect of diabetes control and the effects of consuming diet soda on diabetes-related factors such as glucose levels.

Ultimately, the researchers “found that the women who drank water achieved a better improvement in insulin sensitivity,” said Farshchi. That translates to better health and disease control among diabetic patients, noted the researchers.

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The improved results associated with drinking less diet soda align with previous studies showing that diet soda is “associated with the development of metabolic syndrome and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes,” according to the study.

Yet other research shows that obese and diabetic individuals think diet soda will not harm their weight and disease management.

“Our results also question whether consuming diet drinks is the most effective way for people with diabetes to manage their condition,” explained Macdonald, who calls for “further and larger scale research” to assess the impact of diet beverages on diabetic patients.