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Jun 13, 2014

Are Diet Drinks on Par with Water for Losing Weight?

According to a new study, diet beverages could help people lose more weight than drinking water alone.

Diet drinks could help people lose weight, according to a study published in the June issue of Obesity. The goal of the study, which was fully funded by the American Beverage Association, was to determine whether what people drink as part of their diet has any impact on overall weight loss.

This was the first-ever study to include a head-to-head comparison of water vs. diet drinks as part of a weight loss plan. Water has always been considered the gold-standard for optimal health and experts have had their reservations about diet drinks over the years. While some studies found that diet drinks may help with weight loss, others suggest that diet drinks are actually associated with weight gain.

In this study, researchers at the University of Colorado and Temple University conducted a direct comparison of water and diet beverages as part of a 12-week weight loss plan. Between Oct. 2012 and April 2013, a total of 303 participants enrolled into the study. Participants were between 27-40 years old and more than 80% were female.

Each study participant received the same weight loss intervention over the 12-week period, which included education, weigh-ins and weekly meetings led by registered dieticians and psychologists. The only difference was that half of participants were instructed to consume 24 ounces of low or no-calorie beverages each day—the equivalent of two cans of soda, tea or flavored water. The other half of participants was encouraged to drink the same amount of water each day and avoid diet beverages.

After three months, subjects who consumed diet beverages lost 44% more weight than those drinking water alone. Diet beverage drinkers lost an average of 13 pounds compared to water-drinkers, who lost an average of 9 pounds. The diet beverage group also reported feeling significantly less hungry and had greater improvements in cholesterol than the group drinking water only.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that drinking diet beverages alone will help you lose weight. Diet and exercise remain the key components of weight loss. Indeed, all subjects in this study participated in educational and support sessions, which promote a healthy diet and regular physical activity. And as with any health or lifestyle change, consult with your health care provider before starting a diet regimen and to determine what will work best for you.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much water should I drink each day?
  • Consuming at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water or other fluid every day is important for good health. However, how much water you need depends on your health, how active you are and where you live. For example, if you exercise intensely or live in a hot climate, you may need to drink more water than usual.
  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

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