A new industry-backed study has found that diet soda drinkers lose weight faster than those who foreswear soda altogether, CNN reports. The small study, funded in part by the American Beverage Association, divided 300 diet soda drinkers into two groups. One group could go on drinking the sweet stuff, while the other cut out diet soda entirely. The study found that the drinkers, with intensive coaching, lost an average of 13 pounds over 12 weeks, while the abstainers, with the same coaching, lost only 9 pounds.
That four-pound difference, the authors suggest, comes down to a failure of willpower. The abstainers evidently turned to higher caloric sources for their sweet fix, while the drinkers could satisfy their cravings with artificial sweeteners.
"The most likely explanation was that having access to drinks with sweet taste helps the [artificially-sweetened beverage] group to adhere better to the behavioral change program," concluded study author Dr. Jim Hill of the University of Colorado's Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.
In other words, diet soda is healthier, assuming you can't control your cravings for even more sugary food and drink.
Susan Swithers, a professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at Purdue University, noted the study only last 12 weeks, and many researchers think diet sodas actually heighten the desire for real sugar and the likelihood of greater weight gain.
"Doing these short-term studies that look at weight can't really tell us anything about whether or not these products are contributing to these increased risks," Swithers told CNN. "And it's really hard to look at the (long-term) data and come up with any argument that they're helping."