Remember diet soda? That fizzy, filling, fake-sweet stuff that made you feel like you could eat whatever you want, because drinking a diet cola is just like deleting all those calories from your cheeseburger-and-fries lunch? (Except not.)
Well, don’t panic, because it’s not dead yet–but diet soda’s days may be numbered if current trends continue. A company called Engagement Labs recently employed a tool known as TotalSocial to examine consumer conversations about brands and categories. The company found that while people seem to be talking about regular soft drinks, talk about diet soft drinks is starting to fizzle out.
More specifically, Diet Pepsi, Coca Cola Zero and Diet Dr. Pepper are getting considerably less buzz than non-diet counterparts like Coca-Cola, Sprite and Pepsi.
What’s behind this? For one thing, artificial sweeteners are getting a lot of bad press lately, with some recent data suggesting a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity. ”One plausible reason is that artificial sweeteners will trigger the part of the brain that craves sugar, without providing the true sweet nutrient, and therefore they do not satisfy the cravings, leading us to consume more,” Dr. Adrienne Youdim, MD, tells The Feast.
So diet soda’s potential to shoot itself in the foot might be part of the problem. “The studies are conflicting, however, and the link may be a simple association rather than causation, i.e. people who tend to drink diet sodas are the ones who are overweight or trying to diet,” adds Youdim, who is based at the Center for Weight Loss and Nutrition at the preeminent Lasky Clinic in Beverly Hills.
The clean-eating craze is another factor. People are juicing more and drinking more water, and recently bottled water sales beat out soda and flavored drink sales for the first time. But diet sodas may be taking a particularly big hit from that trend, while regular sodas see an uptick. “Why regular soda is gaining momentum is hard to say for sure, especially given the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines released earlier this year,” Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, and corporate dietician at Medifast, tells The Feast.
“The guidelines recommend limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10 percent each day. That’s 200 calories, or 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2000 calorie diet. One 16-ounce bottle of cola has 52 grams of added sugar; that’s a little over 200 calories, or 13 teaspoons of sugar.” So one regular soda takes care of your whole sugar allowance for the day, and then some.
Diet sodas might seem like the answer since they have less sugar but, adds Miller, “the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines state that while artificial sweeteners may help cut down on calories, they may not be a good way to manage your weight.” Not to mention that the jury’s out about other potentially negative health effects of artificial sweeteners.
If all that sounds too confusing, there’s always good old water. And also beer, because apparently hoppy beer is the health beverage of champions now too.
Diet beer, anyone?