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Diet Soda May Lead to Weight Gain and Diabetes

Jul 10, 2013 04:58 PM EDT

Diet soda may be making people fat and putting them at risk for diabetes, according Susan Swithers of the department of psychological sciences and ingestive behavior research center at Purdue University.

Published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Swithers' paper argues that artificially sweetened beverages are not only causing negative health outcomes in those who consume them regularly, but may even lead to worse long-term problems than regular soda.

"In lots of ways, [artificial sweeteners] have been given the benefit of the doubt just because they don't have calories," Swithers told

Furthermore, she explains, studies that link diet soda and poor health are often tossed to the side.

"The typical response has been to dismiss this from the perspective of, 'It's only people who are unhealthy or heavy who drink diet soda in the first place,'" she explained.

However, in her paper Swithers hypothesizes that these poor outcomes may be due to something else entirely, suggesting instead that by ingesting sweet-tasting products void of actual sugar, people are throwing a wrench into the delicate mechanics of hormone production.

Because the body begins releasing hormones the moment sugar touches the lips, by consuming artificial sugar, Swithers fears our bodies are becoming confused.

Eventually, in bodies that are habitually confused, Swithers told NPR, they "may no longer release the hormones" needed to process sugar. Should this happen, individuals may end up overeating more as well as experiencing bigger spikes in blood sugar, which could eventually lead to diabetes.

Still, other studies have shown that diet soda may in fact help those who enjoy soda keep off the pounds. For example, a study by researchers at Boston's Children Hospital showed that overweight adolescents who received home deliveries of water and zero-calorie drinks for one year on average kept off four more pounds than a similar group of teens who continued drinking sugary beverages.

Based on the conflicting information, Swithers argues that more research needs to be done on the connection between artificial sweeteners and health.

"Until we can recognize that these risks exist, we won't be able to figure out what is causing them and how to avoid them," she said, according to

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