Surprise, surprise! Consuming diet beverages ups junk food intake as well.
If you didn’t expect this finding, think back to all the times you bought a zero-sugar beverage only to complement it, simultaneously or later with some potato chips, some burgers or a few slices of cheesy pizza.
According to a study featuring in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Journal, consuming diet beverages ups junk food intake. If we are committed to lasting lifestyle changes, perhaps we should give a second thought to choosing this type of beverages. One good reason being that upping junk food consumption pretty much defeats the purpose of consuming diet beverages.
An Ruopeng, the lead author of the study and professor of kinesiology and community health with the University of Illinois, strengthens this thesis:
“When people consume diet beverages, they need to be more cautious about consuming additional calories from discretionary foods, because that will completely undo the weight-control purpose”.
The study drew on data collected between 2003 and 2012 on 22,513 U.S. adults. While all participants chalked down everything they ate and drank in just two nonconsecutive days, the data was conclusive enough.
Consumption of drinks – split into five categories: coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages and no-calorie drinks – was associated with a certain category of foods, as it resulted from the data scribbled down by the participants.
Of particular interest to the researchers were the discretionary foods. This category won its name due to the fact that people do not consume this type of food as a real nutritional feast. Rather, foods in this category are ‘leisure foods’. Overall, the researchers included 661 items on the list of discretionary foods. All contain high sugar quantities, are high in saturated fats and sodium and low in nutrients.
Looking at the calorie count, this was of course higher during those days when high-calorie beverages were consumed. However, during the days when coffee and diet beverages were consumed, although the overall number of calories was lower, the highest number of calories came from unhealthy foods, mostly part of the discretionary food list.
What exactly prompts us to engage in such consumption practices remains unclear. Researchers were not able to pinpoint what are the mechanisms at play. According to An, it could well be that while drinking diet beverages, we feel we somehow gained the right to up our junk food intake. And feel less guilty about it because we feel it’s compensated.
Or indulging in some discretionary food and feeling guilty over the high caloric intake, we turn to diet beverages.
Either way, the study is an interesting peek into dietary behaviors.
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