Drinking diet soda while eating carbs might do you more harm than drinking the full-fat, regular version of the drink, suggests new research.
A new study has found that while artificial sweeteners used to replace sugar have no impact on their own, when consumed with a carbohydrate they decrease the brain’s response to sweet tastes.
This could lead to eating more food to try to satiate those sugary cravings, which could in turn lead to weight gain.
So, the researchers argue, you’re better off getting a regular pop with your fries rather than trying to offset your carbs with a diet version.
The Yale University trial examined 45 volunteers, at a healthy weight, who consumed seven beverages over a two-week period.
The investigators conducted studies before, during and after the testing period, including performing fMRI scans to look at how the brain responds to sweet tastes.
Some drank fruity soft drinks with added table sugar while others had beverages with the carbohydrate maltodextrin.
The latter group showed more changes in the brain’s response to sweet taste and the body’s insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Dana Small, director of the Modern Diet and Physiology Research Centre at the university, said: ‘When we set out to do this study, the question that was driving us was whether or not repeated consumption of an artificial sweetener would lead to a degrading of the predictive ability of sweet taste.
‘This would be important because sweet-taste perception might lose the ability to regulate metabolic responses that prepare the body for metabolizing glucose or carbohydrates in general.
‘Perhaps the effect resulted from the gut generating inaccurate messages to send to the brain about the number of calories present.
‘The gut would be sensitive to the sucralose and the maltodextrin and signal that twice as many calories are available than are actually present.
‘Over time, these incorrect messages could produce negative effects by altering the way the brain and body respond to sweet taste.
‘Previous studies in rats have shown that changes in the ability to use sweet taste to guide behavior can lead to metabolic dysfunction and weight gain over time.
‘We think this is due to the consumption of artificial sweeteners with energy.
‘Our findings suggest that it’s OK to have a Diet Coke once in a while, but you shouldn’t drink it with something that has a lot of carbs.
‘If you’re eating French fries, you’re better off drinking a regular Coke or – better yet – water. This has changed the way that I eat, and what I feed my son. I’ve told all my friends and my family about this interaction.’
The Calorie Control Council, which reviews low-calorie sweeteners and sugar replacements, responded to this study, commenting: ‘The Calorie Control Council is reviewing the small study’s findings and methodology but stands by the overall safety and benefits of sucralose and other commonly used low-and-no-calorie sweeteners which have been confirmed through decades of scientific research.’