Diet soda is making us fat. That’s the news from Purdue University neuroscientist Dr. Susan Swithers, who says that artificial sweeteners make it tough for our brains to regulate our calorie intake. It’s a complicated process, but it works something like this: When you taste something sweet – even a sugar-free sweetener – your body preps for a surge of incoming calories. Your insulin levels rise, your body begins to release hormones that trigger fullness, and your brain gets a rewarding blast of feel-good dopamine. But when you don’t get the expected calories, your system stays flooded with chemicals that it now needs to get rid of.
Eventually, if you consume a lot of artificial sweeteners, your body starts to treat your taste buds like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. And it stops paying attention when you taste something sweet. Which means, when you take in real sugar, your body can’t properly metabolize the calories. Because it doesn’t bother to produce enough insulin or hormones to do the job. More importantly, your brain no longer gets a full-strength dopamine jolt from eating something pleasurable.
So, you don’t feel satisfied, and keep on eating, which can really pack on the pounds. To make matters worse, artificial sweeteners cause something psychologists call cognitive distortion. Simply put, we fool ourselves into believing that the calories we save by ordering a diet drink make it okay to supersize everything else. Which, again, leads to overeating.
Bottom line? Soft drinks - both regular and diet - are NOT good for you. So, skip the soda pop, and stick to Dr. Swisher’s “go to” beverage: Plain old water.