PEOPLE who drink diet soda thought they are losing weight and cutting calories. Actually it is not.
A new study showed that those who opted for low-calorie soft drinks ended up eating more foods loaded with sugar, salt, fat and cholesterol.
However, the study did not prove that drinking diet sodas causes a person to eat more unhealthy foods.
Study author Ruopeng An, a kinesiology professor at the University of Illinois said people who drink diet beverages feel less guilt and feel justified in eating more. They thought that eating more potato chips is okay since their beverages contain less calories.
They also found that people eat foods that are not required by their bodies.
Specifically, total calorie intake and the participants' choice of beverages -- including coffee, tea, sugar-free drinks, sugary beverages and alcohol -- were analyzed. The researchers also considered consumption of discretionary foods, which are calorically dense but low in nutritional value, such as cookies, ice cream, fries, pastries and chocolate.
The study found that those who drink diet beverages may not actually be "saving" any calories because the foods they eat have more sugar, salt, fat and cholesterol.
More than 90 percent of those included in the study ate discretionary foods regularly, which amounted to about 482 calories per day.
About 97 percent of the participants had at least one of the five types of beverages daily.
More than half of the participants drank coffee. The next most popular beverages were sugary drinks, which were consumed by 43 percent of those in the study. Tea was the beverage of choice for 26 percent of the participants, 22 percent drank alcohol and 21 percent chose diet beverages.
Although coffee and diet beverage drinkers consumed fewer total calories daily than those who drank alcohol or sugary drinks, they got a larger percentage of their total calories from unhealthy foods, the researchers found.
The obese adults in the study who drank diet beverages also got more calories from discretionary foods than people who were a normal weight but drank sugary beverages. The study authors concluded that opting for diet drinks may not help people control their weight if they don't eat healthy foods and consider portion sizes.
An suggests that people carefully document their caloric intake from both beverages and discretionary foods because both of these add calories -- and possibly weight -- to the body.