If you want to win in the weight loss game, you already know to dial down the sugary drinks. But new research confirms you should also let go of diet soda.
In a new study published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, researchers found that women who switched from no-calorie diet drinks to water lost significantly more weight than those who stuck with diet drinks.
How diet soda affected weight loss
Researchers recruited 81 overweight or obese women with Type 2 diabetes who consumed diet beverages on a regular basis. Then, for six months, they asked half the women to drink water after lunch five times a week, while the other half continued drinking diet soda.
The women who drank water lost about 14 pounds over the course of the study, compared with just 11.5 pounds for those who consumed diet beverages. Levels of fasting insulin, which is a bigger health indicator for diabetes, also decreased more in the water consumption group.
This study is important because many people reduce consumption of sugary drinks by switching to diet soda in an effort to lose weight and improve health. Given the amount of sugar that is in regular soda, diet may be a better alternative. But, as this study shows, water is still the best.
“The best drink for your health not only for weight loss but also for carbohydrate metabolism is water. Still, obese people [ed note: and others!] are used to a sweet taste, and it’s very difficult for them to just say goodbye to sugary food,” Dr. Hamid R. Farshchi, senior author and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Nottingham, told The New York Times.
Attempts to overhaul lifestyle habits in an extreme way don’t usually work out, previous research has noted. If you’re trying to lose unhealthy weight, the best thing you can do is to find habits you can stick to over the long term.
So while switching completely to water should still be the ultimate goal, Farshchi and his new study suggest, consider an intermediary step of infusing water with sliced fruit or another healthful flavor enhancer. Eventually you can phase out diet soda or enjoy it on occasion, which is far less painful than going straight from a daily fountain soda to water overnight (trust us).
The study did not test if this effect stayed constant among people without diabetes or men and did not follow the participants’ other weight loss behaviors, like exercise. They also didn’t keep track of how much fluid each participant drank, which is important because fluid can influence how full you feel. In other words, the water drinkers may have simply had more to drink.
Whatever way you slice it, water beats out diet soda for health.