Like a can of Diet Coke with your lunch? Then you’ll want to know this.

Can Diet Coke Make You Fat?

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

8 min read

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there regarding whether diet soda drinks, like Diet Coke, can cause weight gain or not.

Check out this email from Kathryn:

“Hey Russ! I’ve lost 25lbs so far but there’s a guy at work who says I’m ruining my diet by having a Diet Coke at lunchtime. Is this true? I absolutely love my can (please don’t take it away lol),but I don’t want to ruin it. What’s the truth?”

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Diet Coke does not cause weight gain, so you can enjoy your lunchtime can without fear. The bad news is that this won’t stop your colleague from lecturing you, because people be dicks.

Table of Contents

Why Diet Coke Does Not Cause Weight Gain

does_diet_coke_cause_weight_gain

Yeah, your resident work expert is wrong on this one.

Diet Coke contains zero calories, therefore it has absolutely no impact on weight gain or weight loss.

Now, some people will claim that “the sweetener contained within Diet Coke (aspartame) will trick your body into thinking it’s had sugar and force it into fat storage mode” – this is also wrong; first because there’s no evidence to suggest this happens, and second because if something contains zero calories then there are zero calories to store.

So drink your lunctime Diet Coke without fear.

I personally don’t like the taste of Diet Coke, but I know that one of the biggest dieting mistakes people make is to remove the small things (like this) which they really enjoy. (11, 12)


Are There Any Studies Which Show That Diet Coke Causes Weight Gain?

can Diet Coke cause weight gain?

There are none.

And I’d be pretty interested if there were, too, because this would be the first time in human history where the law of thermodynamics (calories in versus calories out) has been broken.



can diet coke make you store fat

This is where the water gets a little bit murkier.

So from the outset, it’s important to remember that correlation does not mean causation.

That statement will help you navigate through much of the bullshit out there, because when studies only show a link from one thing to another (as opposed to clear causation) it leaves the door open for the results to be twisted to suit an agenda.

For example, the yearly murder rate in New York City happens to spike at the same time of year as ice cream sales. Does this mean ice cream is causing murders? Of course not! That’s correlation.

Well, maybe you’d get murdered if you stole this kid’s ice cream!

So what do we have in terms of solid research?

Well, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Endourology actually confirmed that diet soda drinks are not harmful to body composition. They will also not slow down your metabolism, as per a trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, and a fascinating study from the University of Texas showed that diet soda drinks have no impact on weight gain and weight loss mechanisms (the same as any other zero calorie beverage) (9, 10, 11)

The last study above is particularly interesting, because folks often claim that “it’s the other stuff in there” which causes weight gain, right? Well, if that was really the case then it would have showed up in a study which compared diet soda against other zero calorie drinks.

But it wasn’t.

Overall, the closest we can get to blaming Diet Coke (or any other diet soda) for weight gain is to say that it’s guilty by association.

For example, when we consider that the vast majority of diet soda drinkers are overweight, it’s important to remember that they are actually the target market for the products. The drink wasn’t the cause of obesity, but more likely is that they switched to diet soda as a way to reduce their calorie intake.

So that would be like me saying five-finger training shoes make people become huge bell-ends, because everyone who wears them is a one, when in reality it’s that the target market for those shoes is huge bell-ends.



does_diet_coke_cause_weight_gain

This infographic has been floating around on social media for quite some time.

It makes a simple can of Diet Coke look like 330ml of pure disaster.

Most of my readers know that I absolutely despise fearmongering bullshit like this, so I want to end this article by going through the silly claims made in this picture and debunking them one by one.

  • Claim 1: “Diet Coke switches your body into fat storage mode!”

This is dead wrong.

Back in the 1980s, people believed that sweeteners like aspartame could trick the body into believing it has just received sugar, leading to an insulin spike, which would trigger fat storage. Science has since shown us that this is complete and utter nonsense, and the only thing which can trigger fat storage is a calorie surplus. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

  • Claim 2: “The potentially deadly combination of caffeine and aspartame creates a short addictive high, similar to the way cocaine works!”

There’s no evidence to suggest that caffeine stimulates the brain’s reward center, but it wouldn’t even be a problem if it did.

This part of the brain is stimulated by anything fun – which definitely includes cocaine, but also includes daily activities like eating food, performing exercise, and watching those satisfying-as-fuck Youtube videos where people try to decide if something is real or cake. (7)

Also, the term “potentially deadly” can be applied to literally anything. It’s all about the dose, and in order for this combination of caffeine and aspartame to become deadly you’d need to consume more than 1000mg (/day) caffeine and 3800mg (/day) aspartame. There’s 48mg caffeine and 185mg aspartame in one 330ml can, so you’d need to drink more than 21 cans per day! (8)

  • Claim 3: “Routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, are connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure.”

If a simple can of Diet Coke had this kind of power, I suspect Thanos would have dropped an infinity stone infused multi-pack from space and saved himself the hassle of snapping his fingers.

There are no studies confirming any of the bogus claims made above, and the reason they’ve used the term “connected to” is because it enables them to twist the facts to suit their narrative. As mentioned earlier, overweight and obese people make up a large percentage of the target market for diet soda companies, so most studies on diet soda use those individuals, and many of them have higher risk factors, even though those risks had nothing to do with diet soda consumption.

  • Claim 4: “It will attack the enamel on your teeth!”

This one is true.

You’re an adult, and you probably already know that drinking soda is bad for the enamel on your teeth. (13)



In Summary: Don’t Be A Dick!

can Diet Coke make you fat

I don’t want to give you the impression that Diet Coke is good for you, or healthy, because it’s not.

I mean:

  • Diet Coke serves no nutritional purpose other than tasting nice.
  • Diet Coke will not improve your performance in the gym.
  • Diet Coke will not make you perform better in any sport.

That being said, there’s no need for your lunchtime can of Diet Coke to become a lunchtime can’t of Diet Coke, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with consuming Diet Coke (or any other diet soda drink) as part of your healthy diet. Enjoy!

References:

  1. Smeets P. A. M., et al. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of human hypothalamic responses to sweet taste and calories. Am J Clin Nutr (2005).
  2. Møller S. E., et al. Effect of aspartame and protein, administered in phenylalanine-equivalent doses, on plasma neutral amino acids, aspartate, insulin and glucose in man. Pharmacol Toxicol (1991).
  3. Wolf-Novak L. C., et al. Aspartame ingestion with and without carbohydrate in phenylketonuric and normal subjects: effect on plasma concentrations of amino acids, glucose, and insulin. Metabolism (1990).
  4. Horwitz D. L., et al. Response to single dose of aspartame or saccharin by NIDDM patients. Diabetes Care (1988).
  5. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/82/5/1011/4607445/
  6. Howell S., et al. “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab (2017).
  7. Nehlig A., et al. SPECT assessment of brain activation induced by caffeine: no effect on areas involved in dependence. Dialogues Clin Neurosci (2010).
  8. Andrew G., et al. Sweet-taste receptors, low-energy sweeteners, glucose absorption and insulin release. Br J Nutr (2010).
  9. Passman C. M., et al. Effect of soda consumption on urinary stone risk parameters. J Endourol (2009).
  10. Maersk M., et al. Sucrose-sweetened beverages increase fat storage in the liver, muscle, and visceral fat depot: a 6-mo randomized intervention study. Am J Clin Nutr (2011).
  11. Nettleton J. A., et al. Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Diabetes Care (2009).
  12. Shenkin J. D., et al. Soft drink consumption and caries risk in children and adolescents. Gen Dent (2003).
  13. Koliaki C., et al. Defining the Optimal Dietary Approach for Safe, Effective and Sustainable Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults. Healthcare (Basel) (2018).

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Get More From Russ!

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own russhowepti.com.

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

2 responses to “Can Diet Coke Make You Fat?”

  1. Bennie avatar
    Bennie

    My workmate used to tell me my Diet Coke at lunch would ruin my gym progress haha 22lbs gone so far, and I definitely couldn’t have stuck to it so easily if I’d tried to remove my Diet Coke.

  2. Reggie avatar
    Reggie

    Always appreciate your no BS style Russ. Great read.

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