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It is possible to kick the habit! On the surface, diet soda probably seems like a smart alternative to its regular sugary, bubbly counterpart. After all… zero calories and zero sugar, right? What’s the harm in that?
WHY YOU NEED TO MAKE THE CHANGE
Artificial sweeteners are sweet — hundreds of times sweeter than regular table sugar, in fact. Research suggests artificial sweeteners in diet soda may actually prime the brain to want more sugary foods. One study from the American Journal of Public Health showed overweight men and women who opted for diet soda were more likely to eat more calories per day than those who chose regular, as well as higher BMIs.
Another study showed that while consuming diet soda activated the brain’s reward centers just like regular soda, there was less activity in the regions of the brain where we see a desire to consume “palatable” food — those high in fat and sugar. If there’s no activity there, our bodies might not be satisfied with sweet tastes, so we want to consume more. This means diet soda might be messing with our brain’s natural reaction to cravings.
And then there’s all the research showing associations between diet soda consumption and increased weight, though it’s important to note that this research does not show that one actually causes the other. (In other words, it doesn’t tease out whether overweight people are just more likely to drink diet soda in an effort to lose weight, or if the diet soda promotes weight gain.) But still, there’s so much we don’t know about the effects of diet soda and artificial sweeteners that it may just be better to stay away from the beverage.
HOW TO DO IT
So how do you kick your diet soda habit? Simple: slowly, according to Natalie Stephens RD, LD, a dietician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Cutting down on soda is a personal struggle of my own,” she tells Yahoo Health. “It truly feels like an addiction when you consider ‘giving it up.’”
Stephens says she’s had some clients give it up in one fell swoop — but as research suggests, your brain may still need some sort of similar “fix.” She says that, more than likely, if you consume a beverage with both bubbles and flavor, the similarities will be enough to wean yourself off soda.
“I’ve been buying mineral water as a means to get my bubbly without added sugars — including artificial — and that seems to help,” she says. “I can go days without soda as long as I have something bubbly. So, start with bubbly waters like mineral water, club soda, or seltzer water … if the thought of going cold turkey brings on a headache.”
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