Your Brain Isn’t Fooled By Diet Sodas

sodaNearly 927 million cases of Diet Cola, and another 892 million cases of other diet beverages were sold in 2010. One study followed 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years, they found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers.

I drank diet soda since I was probably around 10 years old…that’s when I first started feeling chubby compared to my classmates. In my teens as I was anorexic, I would drink 4-5 diet sodas a day to fill up to avoid eating.

After overcoming anorexia, I still drank them to help me eat less between meals…which didn’t help much when I would go most of the day eating very little amounts only to cave in at night.

There are two primary schools of thought: The first is that diet soda alone does not cause weight gain, but it has more to do with the unhealty habits of diet soda drinkers—the sum of which leads to weight gain. That could be the case. The second school of thought is that the artificial sweeteners mess with your body’s chemical processing, causing you to eat more and consequently gain weight. The research in this area is inconsistent at best.

I always brushed off reports or articles saying diet soda was as bad as sugar and still made you gain weight. I didn’t believe that because I’d spent years anorexic and didn’t gain weight. The argument I most often heard was that diet sodas would cause you to want real sugar or calories so you would end up eating anyway. For the longest time, I wasn’t connecting that to my binge eating on sweet foods (sugar free or not) at night.

However, what I didn’t realize until many years later when I started tackling my binge eating head on, was that I had developed an addiction to sugary foods–whether diet or real sugar. Either way, they were still stimulating my brain in the same way and keeping me in an eating habit that I had grown ashamed of. The reactions in my brain caused by the sweet-tasting foods were also stifling my ability to feel full. I just kept wanting more.

So what makes diet soda drinkers gain weight?

Substances like Splenda and aspartame may have zero calories, but our bodies don’t appear to be deceived.  When we get a “sweet” taste, our bodies expect calories to follow. When this doesn’t occur, it leads to distortions in your biochemistry.

As far as “sweetness satisfaction” in our brain is concerned, however, it can tell the difference.

Our brains notice the difference between a real sugar and an artificial one, even if our conscious mind enjoys the sweetness and can’t make the distinction. Artificial sweeteners stimulate communication in the brain’s pleasure center, yet simultaneously provide less actual satisfaction.

So when you consume artificial sweeteners, your body craves more, as well as real sugar, because your brain is not satisfied at a cellular level by the sugar imposter. There is even research suggesting that artificial sweetener use may ruin your body’s ability to control calories by not feeling full or sending any signals of being full, thus boosting your inclination to overindulge.

This is similar to what happens when we eat sugar: for many of us, our brains can respond to sugar like drugs, and/or we can develop leptin resistance where our brain doesn’t get the signals to stop eating even when our bodies have gotten enough.

You can see a clip with Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Great Bird Flu Hoax and The No-Grain Diet and owner of the #1 ranked health website in the world, explaining this further:


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