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Study: Diet Soda May Do More Harm Than Good

Last updated on Monday, January 27, 2014

(UNDATED) - You may have seen a recent study suggesting that people who drink diet soda tend to eat more. One doctor says that’s true for some people, but not necessarily for everyone.

The study from Johns Hopkins University showed that overweight and obese people who drink diet beverages take in more calories from food than heavy people who have drinks that contain sugar.

"This was not looked at in normal weight individuals, and there's some data that show a very different story in people who were normal weight," said Dr. Lori Hurst, a bariatric physician at St. Vincent Hospital in Carmel.

Hurst admits that some people do feel as if they can eat more if they drink a diet soda. "It is more compensatory eating. If someone is accustomed to drinking regular soda and then switches to diet, they think 'well, I'm saving these calories, so I can have a cookie with dinner," Hurst said. But she says there is evidence that people who are not overweight can benefit from diet drinks. "They actually consume fewer calories per day than normal weight individuals who drink regular soda."

Hurst understands that some people are worried about the safety of artificial sweeteners, but she believes sugar is a bigger problem. "I think when you're comparing the harm of consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners versus the harm of consumption of refined sugar, I think there's no question that the non-nutritive sweeteners are healthier," Hurst said, adding that she and most doctors recommend people drink more water than anything else.

The authors of the study say about 20-percent of overweight people in the U.S. regularly drink diet beverages. The study says only about three-percent of all Americans drank diet soda 50 years ago.

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