Despite a lack of causational evidence, diet soda is often considered a contributing factor to obesity, along with overeating, a lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Still, many dieters choose to sip diet soda due to its low calorie and caffeine-containing content — a fact that may actually improve their weight loss efforts.
Though there isn’t any clear-cut evidence that the caffeine in diet soda can help people lose weight, this theory is supported by several high-profile nutritionists, including Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky.
“Caffeine may slightly boost weight loss or prevent weight gain, but there’s no sound evidence that increased caffeine consumption results in significant or permanent weight loss,” says Zeratsky, via the Mayo Clinic blog. “Caffeine may reduce your desire to eat for a brief time, but there’s not enough evidence to show that long-term consumption aids weight loss.”
Diet Soda’s Benefits for Appetite Reduction
Although its long-term effects on weight loss have not been established, caffeinated diet soda may have short-term ramifications for dieters trying to get slim. As Zeratsky noted, the caffeine in diet soda may suppress the appetite temporarily, reducing a person’s desire to eat. This is one reason why caffeine is commonly used in diet supplements — it’s a cheap way to suppress the appetite. Of course, if your desire to eat is low, you won’t eat as much, leading to weight loss. That’s good news for dieters.
Diet Soda’s Benefits for Exercise Performance
Caffeine’s effects on endurance performance are also well known. When taken with a carbohydrate-containing substance, caffeine can improve endurance, making it a useful aid for dieters who do endurance activities to lose weight, such as running or speed walking. Research cited by Science Daily also shows that caffeine may reduce pain after high-intensity exercise. Reducing pain may motivate dieters to exercise more and stick with their routines.
Diet Soda’s Effects on Weight Loss
The caffeine in diet soda may also reduce adipose tissue and total body weight, often in combination with other stimulant drugs. A 2002 study conducted by the New York Obesity Research Center showed that subjects who took a supplement containing caffeine and ephedra were able to reduce total body fat and weight more than those on a placebo; reports of adverse effects were not significant. A weight loss stack containing ephedra, caffeine and aspirin, often called the ECA stack, has often been shown to promote some weight loss without significant adverse effects in controlled clinical trials.
Alone, the caffeine content in diet soda may still be effective for enhancing weight loss efforts. Caffeine may increase the metabolism, improving the rate of weight loss, though it cannot cause people to lose weight if they are not eating in a caloric deficit.
However, BBC Health points out that the calorie burn from caffeine supplementation is quite low — certainly not something to rely on if you want to lose major poundage. To shed significant weight, you’ll need to rely on a good, calorie-controlled diet first.