Diet Soda's Pyschological Impact

America's obesity rate has risen to epidemic levels over the past few years, and similarly artificially sweetened sodas have become a popular alternative to sugary sodas. The Huffington Post reports that with artificial sweeteners lurking everywhere, you need to be aware of how they effect you.

diet coke
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Considerable research has found consuming these "diet" drinks results in weight gain over the long run. At first glance, this seems preposterous, since you're substituting a high-calorie product with a no-calorie one.

But in a newly published paper, a research team led by Texas Christian University psychologist Sarah Hill finds drinking these non-sugar beverages can "influence psychological processes in ways that—over time—may increase calorie intake."

>>Read more: Toxic Beverages: 9 Reasons Why Diet Soda Is So Bad For You

In a series of experiments, Hill and her colleagues discovered artificially sweetened beverages impacts our subsequent reactions to sweet food in ways that are distinctly different from either sugar-sweetened or non-sweetened drinks. Their research, published in the journal Appetite, suggests these products may activate a craving without satisfying it, thus increasing our vulnerability to the next high-calorie treat that crosses our path.

A body that believes it is getting an energy boost (as the sweet taste of the soda implies) and then does not may react by going into WTF mode (Where's the Fructose?).

In one experiment, 115 undergraduates who had been fasting for at least eight hours drank one of three 12-ounce beverages (served in an unmarked cup): Sprite (sugar-sweetened); Sprite Zero (artificially sweetened); or lemon-lime flavored sparkling mineral water (unsweetened).

Afterwards, they took a test in which they were presented with 28 strings of letters, each of which flashed on a computer screen for 250 milliseconds. Participants were instructed to push one key if the string was an actual word, and another if it was not.

The researchers noted how long it took for them to notice the embedded words, which included seven high-calorie foods (including burger, cookie, and pizza), and seven low-calorie foods (such as celery and carrots).

>>Read more: Sweet (and Sticky): Aspartame Debate Continues


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