Diet Soda Increases Waist Size

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Many people have made the switch to diet soda in an effort to lose weight, but could it actually be jeopardizing their weight loss efforts?

That may certainly be the case, if you consider the staggering results of this study.

Recently, scientists from Texas found that diet soda drinkers had larger waists than non-drinkers. Let's explore the study and its implications.

Diet Soda Drinkers Increased Waist Size by 500%

In a study called the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers analyzed the dietary habits of 474 elderly people.

They collected information on diet soda intake, height, waist circumference, and weight and tracked them over an average period of approximately 10 years.

Compared to the non-diet soda drinkers, those who drank diet soda saw a 70% greater increase in waist size. Those that drank the most diet soda (2 or more daily) experienced waist increases over 500% compared to non-drinkers.1

Did the diet soda cause weight gain? It’s not clear, but considering the results of other studies examining the effects of diet soda, it wouldn’t be surprising if it did.

Diet Soda: Sweet Deception

Research shows your brain can actually tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and real sugar. Different areas of the brain light up when each are consumed.

When sugar is consumed, brain areas related to rewards light up. When artificial sweeteners are consumed, certain reward areas of the brain such as the caudate nucleus are weakly activated.2

The body’s food-reward system plays an important role in regulating appetite. Sending the body mixed signals in relation to food may disrupt appetite and, theoretically, lead to weight gain.

In addition, there may be an issue with the actual taste of artificial sweeteners. Since they are sweeter than regular sugar, they may actually “spoil” your taste buds and accustom them to the sweetness of diet foods.

This may roll over to your selection of other foods, making you develop a sweeter tooth.

The Bottom Line

The moral of the story is to stay away from artificial sweeteners. When you get the real urge to eat something sweet, try to find a healthy substitute like fruit instead.

Natural sweeteners like stevia and monk sugar may be suitable alternatives but, overall, it’s best to eat less sweet and appreciate other flavors.


  1. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2015. 
  2. Physiol Behav. Nov 5, 2012; 107(4): 560–567.


Bobby Leo said...

No wonder I have a pot belly yet work out like a madman...

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