The worst diet advice you could ever follow

Wow. Big Soda must really think you just fell off the turnip truck with this one.

According to a new study, drinking diet beverages may help dieters lose weight.

Researchers pitted non-nutritive sweetened beverages against plain old water as part of a larger 12-week weight loss program. And they found the people who drank diet beverages—which included both diet sodas and other “diet” beverages—lost 13 pounds, on average. That’s a 44 percent advantage over the water drinkers in the same program. (They lost 9 pounds on average.)

But wait—there’s more. Results also showed that 64 percent of the diet beverage drinkers lost at least 5 percent of their body weight—compared with just 43 percent among the water drinkers.

These results were a real coup for Coca-Cola. So the source of funding behind all of these headline-grabbing findings should be pretty easy to guess. No really, go ahead. Just guess.

That’s right: the American Beverage Association.

You have to laugh. Because it’s almost as funny as it is infuriating. Especially because this study got a lot of press. Meanwhile, hundreds of other studies—ones that show how diet beverages actually increase your likelihood of being obese and diabetic—got none.

But it’s also worth noting that this recent study never mentioned what the dieters ate or how much they exercised.So needless to say, there are a lot of mystery factors that could have influenced these results. At the very least, I’d be willing to bet that most of the diet beverages subjects downed in this study probably contained caffeine—a well-known appetite suppressant and metabolic stimulant. (For the record, there are safer, more natural ways to get a shot of caffeine. Coffee and dark chocolate, anyone?)

Of course that’s not even the worst of the fine print behind this research. Not only did the beverage industry pay for this nonsense, but two of the study’s authors “received consulting fees from the Coca-Cola Company outside of the submitted work.”

I’ll give them points for full disclosure. But do I really need to say more?

Maybe not. But I’m going to. Because it’s not just biased, industry-funded research at fault here. Studies like this wouldn’t even exist if Americans didn’t love to be told that their bad behaviors are actually good for them.

After all, why switch to water when someone will design a study that says that diet soda is good for you?

Well I hate to be a killjoy, but just about anything can be “good for you” in the short term. Heck, for Lent one year, I drank nothing but Tab for a full 40 days. And guess what? I lost weight. I also got so sick that I couldn’t stay in school. But I lost weight.

I also went on a french fry and chocolate pudding diet once while I was in medical school. (Yes, that really happened.) And, again, I lost weight. But I certainly wasn’t healthy.

Both stunts would have been a smashing success by this study’s standards. So you can see why I’m telling you—loud and clear—to ignore it.

Because the truth is, you can lose weight doing just about anything. And you can design outlandish studies to prove it “works.” But keeping weight off—and actually getting healthy?

Well that’s a whole different story. One the soda companies know nothing about.

Dr. Fred


“The effects of water and non-nutritive sweetened beverages on weight loss during a 12-week weight loss treatment program.” Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Jun;22(6):1415-21.