Sipping on diet soft drinks is seen by many as a guilt-free indulgence, but a new study may have uncovered a link between the drinks and weight gain.
Researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US found that overweight and obese adults who drink diet soda eat food more high calorie food than those who opt for non-diet drinks.
Adults who consume diet soft drinks were found to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) score and were more likely to snack on high calorie food than those who consumed sugary drinks.
The scientists studied 11 years’ worth of data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to map patterns of drink consumption and calorie intake.
Dr Sara Bleich, associate professor at Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management Lead, and author of the paper, said: “although overweight and obese adults who drink diet soda eat a comparable amount of total calories as heavier adults who drink sugary beverages, they consume significantly more calories from solid food at both meals and snacks.”
The study published in the ‘American Journal of Public Health’ found overweight diet-soda-drinkers ate 1,965 calories a day, compared with the 1,874 consumed by heavy people who drank regular sugar-sweetened beverages. The researchers have called this data “statistically significant”.
The American Beverage Association, the organisation which represents the interests of non-alcoholic drinks companies, said in a statement: "Losing or maintaining weight comes down to balancing the total calories consumed with those burned through physical activity."
Critics also said the analysis, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey between 1999 and 2010, is flawed and that it is too early to say what, if any, role the low-calorie drinks or their artificial sweeteners play in weight loss.
Bonnie Liebman, the director of nutrition at the US Center for Science in the Public Interest, said “you're much better off with water - or coffee or tea, if they're unsweetened.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
See below the tastiest ready meals on the market
Food fast: 10 best ready meals
Food fast: 10 best ready meals
1/10 Sainsbury’s My Goodness! Sticky Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Mash
Rarely does a ready meal taste as if you’ve cooked it yourself. But, if someone served you this flavoursome and innovative dish and told you they had cooked it themselves, you would believe it. 299 calories. £3, sainsburys.co.uk
2/10 Marks and Spencer Fuller Longer Venison Meatballs with Braised Red Cabbage & Mash
This rich 362 calorie ready meal feels luxurious, tastes meaty and leaves you feeling full, though is so nice you’re left wanting more anyway. £4.29, marksandspencer.com
3/10 Soulful Food OnePot Moroccan Chicken Tagine with British Spelt
Despite being the taste of Morocco, this chicken tagine is made from entirely British ingredients. It’s packed with flavour and is just 364 calories, and the spelt ensures it’s far more filling than its size suggests. £3.49, ocado.com
4/10 Incredible! Chicken & Wild Rice Meal Pot
The great thing about this 373 calorie meal is it’s delicious both hot and cold, so you can pop it in your bag for lunch and decide at lunchtime whether you fancy a meal that's like a salad or a meal that is like a pilaf. £2.89, ocado.com
5/10 Amy's Kitchen Indian Mattar Paneer
This vegetarian Indian cheese and pea dish cooked in a spicy sauce comes with rice and manages to pack lots of complex flavours into a small box while not tasting as if it comes from a box. Cheaper, and just as tasty as a takeaway - and just 370 calories. £2, asda.com
6/10 Innocent Mexican Veg Pot
Somehow this 325 calorie vegetarian chilli made of sweet potato, peppers and pinto beans manages to be both warming and subtle at the same time, making it a perfect winter meal. £3.90, tesco.com
7/10 Waitrose LOVE Life You Count Fisherman’s Pie
There are some evenings when you want nothing more than the comfort of a fisherman’s pie, and they are usually the same evenings that you are too tired to cook, in which case this is the ready meal for you. It’s like a warm fishy hug in a box for 294 calories. £3.29, waitrose.com
8/10 Ilumi Kerala Chicken Curry
Many of Ilumi’s nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free ready meals come with long use by dates in pouches that don’t need to be stored in the fridge. They're ideal to keep in the cupboard, just in case. This one's 349 calories, though you need to add your own rice to make it a complete meal. £3.75, ilumiworld.com
9/10 Cook OMG Pot Chicken Noodle Laksa
A fragrant noodle dish with a sauce that packs a punch, this is a 301 calorie microwave only meal just right for lovers of Malaysian food. £.3.99, cookfood.net
10/10 Aldi Ham and Mushroom Fettuccine
It’s so quick to make your own that a pasta ready meal seems silly, but if you must then this tasty new range dish from Aldi is another reason to visit the budget supermarket. 428 calories. £1.89, aldi.co.uk