Think drinking diet soda helps? Think again as a new study has claimed that you may not be saving as many calories as you believe.
The University of Illinois study that examined the dietary habits of more than 22,000 U.S. adults found that diet-beverage consumers may compensate for the absence of calories in their drinks by noshing on extra food that is loaded with sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol.
Using a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture food database, researcher Ruopeng An compiled a 661-item list of discretionary foods, which includes foods that do not belong to the major food groups and are not required by the human body but may add variety to a person’s diet. These energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods include products such as cookies, ice cream, chocolate, fries and pastries.
More than 90 percent of the people in the study consumed discretionary foods daily, averaging about 482 calories from these products each day, An found.
Switching to diet drinks may not help people control their weight if they don’t pay attention to the quantity and quality of the foods they consume, An said.
He noted that they recommend that people carefully document their caloric intake from both beverages and discretionary foods because both of these add calories – and possibly weight – to the body.
An also recommended that public health interventions take a holistic approach, encouraging people to assess their beverage consumption in the context of their overall dietary behavior.
The study will appear in a future issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.