Children who drink diet drinks ‘end up eating more calories elsewhere’ | Daily Mail Online

Diet fizzy drinks won’t keep children’s weight down because they just end up eating more, research has found.

Although the drinks are designed to be healthier by cutting out sugar, children who choose them eat sugar in other things to make up the difference.

Researchers looked at the diets of more than 7,000 children in the US and found only those who mostly drank water consumed fewer calories.

Soft drinks, whether diet or not, bumped up children’s calorie counts – while full sugar drinks had a worse effect, diet drinks were still noticeably worse than water.

Those drinking diet drinks consumed around 200 calories extra elsewhere in their diets and more added sugar in other food and drink.

The scientists said their findings suggest diet drinks are not of any use in trying to lose weight.

Diet drinks are touted as being healthier than their sugar-filled alternative but they may still boost children’s calorie counts, despite not actually containing any, a study found

Researchers from George Washington University in Washington DC carried out the research as part of ongoing work on the drawbacks of soft drinks.

Study author, Dr Allison Sylvetsky, said: ‘These results challenge the utility of diet or low-calorie sweetened beverages when it comes to cutting calories and weight management.

‘Our findings suggest that water should be recommended as the best choice for kids and teens.’

Compared to children who mostly drank water, those indulging in diet drinks took in an extra 196 calories per day, Dr Sylvetsky’s research found.

Children drinking mainly sugary drinks took in an extra 312 calories, while those who drank both diet and full-sugar added a huge 450 calories per day.


Scientific studies have found people who drink mainly diet soft drinks – those containing artificial sweeteners instead of sugar – can be inclined to eat more.

Sugar-free drinks often contain no calories, which could be key to their effect on the appetite.

Research by Johns Hopkins University suggested in 2014 that people’s brains expect the energy they would get from a full-sugar drink – a can of Coca Cola contains 139 calories.

But because the diet counterpart doesn’t have any calories, they need to get those 139 calories, for example, from somewhere else.

This could lead to them eating more over the course of the day to fill the void left by the energy-less drink.

Source: NHS 

A 10-year-old child should need only around 2,000 calories per day, so regularly drinking fizzy drinks could take up as much as a quarter of their energy for the day. 

A can of full-fat Coca Cola contains 139 calories, which would go some way to giving the body energy, whereas Diet Coke doesn’t contain any. 

People drinking the sugar-free drinks may feel more hungry afterwards because of this, leading them to eat or drink more, past research has suggested.

This study is important, the scientists said, because large proportions of children are overweight in Western nations.

Almost a third of children in the US are overweight, as well as around 30 per cent of 11-year-olds in the UK.

Being overweight in childhood makes people more likely to be fat adults with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer.

The use of diet drinks in weight management is controversial, and Dr Sylvetsky said children are also taking in low-calorie sweeteners elsewhere in their diets.

Her past research has claimed the consumption of these sugar-free sweeteners shot up by 200 per cent among children and teenagers between 1999 and 2012.

As a healthier alternative, Dr Sylvetsky suggests children be given sparkling water mixed with 100 per cent fruit juice and a handful of pieces of fresh fruit.

The team’s research was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Children who drink diet drinks ‘end up eating more calories elsewhere’

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