diet or sugary drinksDiet soft drinks are often viewed as the ultimate solution to sugar-filled, calorie-laden soda or juice drinks: zero calories with the same soda taste. While it would seem that if something has zero calories, it can help in our weight loss efforts, it isn’t always the case. Recent research from the Imperial College of London showed that in terms of maintaining a healthy weight, diet drinks (often labeled sugar-free) are no better than their sugary counterparts. The research doesn’t show direct evidence that the artificial sweeteners in the drinks contribute to weight gain, however, there was no evidence that they promote weight loss or prevent weight gain compared with the full sugar versions, either. The researchers speculate that the artificial sugars may stimulate sweet taste receptors, leading to overeating and contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other weight-related health problems.

Additionally, earlier research pointed to taste receptors further down the gastrointestinal tract having a significant role in our bodies processing artificial sweeteners. While we typically think about the tongue when we think of taste, we actually have multiple taste receptors in our guts, as well. These receptors don’t provide a conscious sense of taste. They may, however, have a metabolic reaction to artificial sweeteners that is similar to sugar, which may explain in part why diet drinks aren’t beneficial to weight loss.

Of course, we all know that plain old water is the best thing to give our bodies to drink, but it can sometimes get boring and lacks the flavors and fizz of ‘diet’ drinks. If you are looking for a zero calorie drink that is a bit more interesting than water, the good news is there are plenty of alternatives to ‘diet’ drinks. Adding fresh fruit or mint to your H2O can add an instant flavor boost without the artificial sweeteners. Lemon, lime, watermelon, raspberry, strawberry, and kiwi are all great options! Allow a few pieces to sit in a pitcher of water in the refrigerator for a few hours for best results.

Tea is also a great calorie-free alternative and due to its recent growth in popularity is available in a wide array of interesting flavors. Green tea is touted for its health benefits, so check out those options next time you’re at the store. Trader Joe’s even has a delicious chocolate mint black tea variety for an indulgent treat without the sugar or artificial sweeteners.

If you’re struggling with obesity, Dr. Mona Misra offers several weight loss treatments, including the weight loss balloon, a device that allows for safe and effective weight loss without surgery. You can learn more about the procedure here, or contact Dr. Misra for a consultation.