How Diet Soda Makes You Fat by Mark Hyman, M.D.

How do you lose weight? Substitute sug­ary drinks for diet drinks? Eat low-fat foods. Just eat less of the bad foods—it’s all about the calo­ries. We are told, “Just have more willpower.”

These ideas are false. They are food and diet indus­try pro­pa­ganda that make and keep us fat and sick. Lies by the food indus­try com­bined with bad gov­ern­ment pol­icy based on food indus­try lob­by­ing are the major cause of our obe­sity and dia­betes epidemic.

Now, more than 35 per­cent of Americans are obese, and almost 70 per­cent are over­weight. This is not an acci­dent but the result of care­ful mar­ket­ing and money in pol­i­tics.

We are told it is all about mak­ing bet­ter choices. If we all took more per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity, we could stop this obe­sity and dia­betes epi­demic. We have been told there are no good or bad foods, that the key to weight loss is mod­er­a­tion. And, of course, if we all just exer­cised more, all of us would lose weight. These ideas hold us hostage.

What the Food and Diet Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know: Diet Soda and Diet Drinks Make You Fat and Cause Type 2 Diabetes

Diet soda makes peo­ple fat? Really? How does that happen?

If los­ing weight were all about the calo­ries, then con­sum­ing diet drinks would seem like a good idea. That’s cer­tainly what Coca-Cola wants us to believe in their new ad high­light­ing their efforts to fight obe­sity. They proudly pro­mote the fact that they have 180 low- or no-calorie drinks and that they cut sug­ared drinks in schools by 90 percent.

Is that a good thing? In fact, it may be worse than hav­ing us all drink reg­u­lar Coke (and the other food giants mak­ing diet drinks also push the same propaganda).

A new 14-year study of 66,118 women (sup­ported by many other pre­vi­ous stud­ies) found that the oppo­site seems to be true. Diet drinks may be worse than sugar-sweetened drinks, which are worse than fruit juices (but only fresh-squeezed fruit juices).

The study, pub­lished in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dis­cov­ered some fright­en­ing facts that should make us all swear off diet drinks and products.

  1. Diet sodas raised the risk of dia­betes more than sugar-sweetened sodas!
  2. Women who drank one 12-ounce diet soda had a 33 per­cent increased risk of Type 2 dia­betes, and women who drank one 20-ounce soda had a 66 per­cent increased risk.
  3. Women who drank diet sodas drank twice as much as those who drank sugar-sweetened sodas because arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers are more addic­tive and are hun­dreds to thou­sands of times sweeter than reg­u­lar sugar.
  4. The aver­age diet soda drinker con­sumes three diet drinks a day.

You might say that peo­ple who are over­weight and just about to get dia­betes drink more diet soda, but they sci­en­tif­i­cally con­trolled for body weight. And they found the arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers increased dia­betes inde­pen­dent of body weight!

This and other research shows how diet sodas make peo­ple fat and sick.

And that diet drinks may be even worse than reg­u­lar sugar-sweetened sodas! How does that happen?

  • Artificial sweet­en­ers are hun­dreds to thou­sands of times sweeter than reg­u­lar sugar, acti­vat­ing our genetically-programmed pref­er­ence for sweet taste more than any other substance.
  • They trick your metab­o­lism into think­ing sugar is on its way. This causes your body to pump out insulin, the fat stor­age hor­mone, which lays down more belly fat.
  • It also con­fuses and slows your metab­o­lism down, so you burn fewer calo­ries every day.
  • It makes you hun­grier and crave even more sugar and starchy carbs like bread and pasta.
  • In ani­mal stud­ies, the rats that con­sumed arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers ate more, their metab­o­lism slowed, and they put on 14 per­cent more body fat in just two weeks—even eat­ing fewer calories.
  • In pop­u­la­tion stud­ies, there was a 200 per­cent increased risk of obe­sity in diet soda drinkers.

I love Taylor Swift. I met her last sum­mer. She is a won­der­ful per­son with great integrity. I don’t think she knows about this research, and I hope some­one shares it with her so she can save mil­lions of chil­dren and fans from drink­ing Diet Coke because she endorses it.

Bottom line: There is no free ride. Diet drinks are not good sub­sti­tutes for sugar-sweetened drinks. They increase crav­ings, weight gain, and Type 2 dia­betes. And they are addictive.

Eating Fat Does Not Make You Fat

The diet and food indus­try has brain­washed us to eat fat-free foods, which seems like com­mon sense. Eating fats makes you fat. Right? But the sci­ence tells us otherwise—not all calo­ries are cre­ated equal. And even though fat has more calo­ries per gram (9 calo­ries vs. 4 calo­ries of carbs and pro­tein), eat­ing fat can help you lose weight.

This low-fat idea was based on bad sci­ence. Our gov­ern­ment told us in the 1970s to go on a low-fat diet and to eat 8-11 serv­ings of rice, bread, and pasta a day. And unfor­tu­nately, we lis­tened. This was the begin­ning of our obe­sity and dia­betes epi­demic. The food indus­try hap­pily cre­ated a flood of fat-free foods.

But the sci­ence has proven that eat­ing fat doesn’t make you fat—sugar does. And it is sugar, not fat, that raises your cho­les­terol despite what peo­ple and most doc­tors still believe.

A 20-ounce soda is fat-free, but that doesn’t make it a health food. If cook­ies were fat-free, then you can eat the whole bag, right?

But the fat is replaced with flour and sugar, and the result we now have is one in two adults with diabesity—that’s pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes—and almost one in four teenagers with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.

We did a 10-day sugar-free detox with our online com­mu­nity, and 600 peo­ple lost more than 4,000 pounds in 10 days!

So why does eat­ing fat free make you fat and diabetic?

In a recent Harvard study, Dr. David Ludwig found that in two groups eat­ing exactly the same calo­ries, the group that had the low-fat diet (which means higher in sug­ars and starches) burned 300 calo­ries less per day. Their metab­o­lism was slower than the group eat­ing the higher fat and higher pro­tein diet.

If you ate the higher-fat, higher-protein diet (of exactly the same calo­ries), it is the equiv­a­lent of run­ning for one hour a day. In other words, if you just swap out sug­ars and starches for good qual­ity fats and pro­tein, it will be like you added an hour of free exer­cise a day to your life with­out any change in calo­rie intake!

Bottom Line: The key point here is that all calo­ries are not the same. Swap out sugar and starch for good fats such as nuts, avo­ca­dos, olive oil, and grass-fed ani­mal prod­ucts or wild fish. Be a “qual­i­tar­ian.” Focus on qual­ity, on real food, and the rest takes care of itself.

Being Overweight Is Not Your Fault

The food indus­try would have us believe that con­trol­ling our weight is about per­sonal respon­si­bil­ity. Tell that to a 200-pound 5-year-old with dia­betes and liver fail­ure. Our taste buds have been hijacked by the food and diet indus­try. We are pro­grammed to like sweet, salt, and fat tastes.

And those slick com­bi­na­tions of sugar, fat and salt in junk and processed food have hijacked our taste buds, our brain chem­istry, and our metab­o­lism. These foods are bio­log­i­cally addic­tive. We are held hostage by the food indus­try and we blame ourselves.

This is food terrorism!

How does food addic­tion happen?

New research shows that indus­trial food full of processed sug­ars, fats, salt, and chem­i­cals are pow­er­fully addic­tive. And sugar is the worst culprit.

One ani­mal study found that sugar is more addic­tive than cocaine. When rats were given the choice between main­line cocaine right into their veins or sweet­ened water (in fact, they used an arti­fi­cial sweet­ener), they found that sugar was eight times more addic­tive than cocaine. Even the rats already addicted to cocaine switched over to diet drinks!

And what’s even more inter­est­ing is that while cocaine and heroin acti­vate only one spot for plea­sure in the brain, sugar lights up the brain like a pin­ball machine.

If these foods are addic­tive and drive overeat­ing, then the whole idea of mod­er­a­tion just doesn’t work. Hey, just have that one line of cocaine or that one hit of heroin.

We can’t stop eat­ing, but we can stop eat­ing junk and sugar! So we have to take back our taste buds, take back our brain chem­istry, and take back our bod­ies from the food and diet indus­try. How do we do that?

Bottom Line: By eat­ing real food—chicken, fish, veg­gies, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and a lit­tle whole grains will reset your taste buds and your brain chem­istry automatically.

Exercise Your Way to Weight Loss

The food indus­try and diet indus­try push exer­cise. Even Michelle Obama’s child­hood obe­sity ini­tia­tive focuses on exer­cise in its name, Let’s Move. But it should be really called Let’s Eat Real Food.

Here’s why. Sugar-sweetened drinks make up about 15 per­cent of our calo­rie intake every day. But you have to walk 4.5 miles to burn off one 20-ounce soda, which con­tains 15 tea­spoons of sugar.

You have to run four miles a day for one week to burn off one super­size meal. If you have one super­size meal every­day you would have to run a marathon every day!

You can’t exer­cise your way out of bad diet—except if you run a marathon every day.

Drinking 32 ounces of Gatorade after a work­out is a dumb idea, unless you run around like Kobe Bryant on the bas­ket­ball court for 48 min­utes. There are bet­ter ways to replen­ish your energy and elec­trolytes than coloured sugar water with a few min­er­als sprin­kled in.

To para­phrase my friend Bill Clinton, “It’s the food, stupid!”

Bottom Line: Exercise is crit­i­cal to long-term health and weight loss, but you can’t exer­cise your way out of a bad diet.

Thankfully, sci­ence is shed­ding light on the ideas that keep us fat and sick. Unfortunately, sci­en­tists don’t have billion-dollar mar­ket­ing bud­gets. But we as a com­mu­nity of think­ing peo­ple want­ing real infor­ma­tion can speak out, can spread the word and turn the tide of obe­sity and chronic dis­ease together. Share this arti­cle with your com­mu­nity and friends.

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, M.D.