Earlier this week, a study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society alleging that consuming diet beverages increases the waistline.  While some media reports might convey that this claim is true – doctors and dietitians have said otherwise:  there is no proof that diet beverages are linked to an increase in belly fat.

The study focused on 749 adults aged 65 years or older over a 10-year period and claims that people who regularly drink diet beverages added three inches to their waistline while non-regular diet beverage drinkers added only .8 inches.  What the study failed to mention was that people in this age group are already at risk of weight gain, therefore the weight gain cannot be accurately attributed to diet beverages.

In fact, Catherine Collins, St. George’s Hospital NHS Trust principal dietitian, points out that the researchers “carefully” avoided some important points like why the subjects were drinking diet beverages and whether they were overweight or trying to lose weight to begin with.  Collins also mentions that the study “doesn’t confirm that diet drinks make you fat, but rather confused correlation with causation,” and that all calories, both from food and beverages, count in terms of body weight and storage of surplus calories.

Additionally, Dr. Nita Forouhi of the University of Cambridge states:

“This study does not establish that diet soda leads to accumulation of abdominal fat, due to current study limitations. Though the authors speculate that the higher waist girth is likely to represent the metabolically active deep visceral fat more so than the superficially located subcutaneous fat, they did not directly measure these, so it is unclear what type of “belly fat” would be associated with diet soda intakes.”

In response to the study, we noted in a statement that this was an observational study that does not – and cannot – establish causation, and that the study subjects – aged 65 and older – reported what they consumed years after actually doing so.  Furthermore, the researchers did not assess total caloric intake and, instead, singled out one specific aspect of the diet.

Our member companies offer consumers an array of no- and low-calorie options as another way to enjoy their favorite beverages while watching their calorie intake.  Decades of research continues to show that the no- and low-calorie sweeteners found in diet beverages and thousands of other foods and beverages can help reduce calories consumed and aid in maintaining a healthy weight.  And these sweeteners have been approved by regulatory agencies around the globe, including the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as safe for use in both foods and beverages.

For more information on the safety of diet beverages and the sweeteners in them, visit LetsClearItUp.org.