According to the study, people who consumed diet drinks rather than those sweetened with sugar, appeared to eat more too.
The research has raised questions about the real benefits, if any, that low-calorie beverages play in helping people to lose weight.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined data from a US survey of 24,000 people over a 10-year period. Those surveyed who were overweight or obese were found to consume the same amount of calories on a daily basis, regardless of their drink of choice. But for those who chose diet drinks, more of the daily calories came from food.
Health professionals, commenting on the study’s results, where quick to caution that it is still unclear if low or zero calorie drinks provide any benefit to those who eat more.
Published in the American Journal of Public Health, overweight Americans who drink diet beverages consume 1,965 calories per day compared to the 1,874 daily calories consumed by overweight Americans who drank ‘regular’ sweetened beverages.
Among the obese diet beverage drinkers, the calories consumed on a daily basis jumped to 2,058 versus 1,897 for those who chose ‘regular’ sweetened beverages.
While the differences in calories may at first seem small, the study’s researchers argue that they are statistically significant.
Lead researcher, Sara Bleich told reporters that the findings – when paired with other research – suggests that artificial sweeteners may affect a person’s metabolism and cravings.
Bleich added that this could be due to people being encouraged to eat more food, with the belief that they are ‘saving’ calories by choosing diet drinks.
“The push to diet soda may not make a lot of sense if you are then also eating more solid food,” Bleich said. “The switch from a sugary beverage to a diet beverage should be coupled with other changes in the diet, particularly reducing snacks.”