- Diet soda drinkers are more likely to consume "discretionary foods," or foods that are generally deemed to be unhealthy, such as cookies and French fries, according to a new study from a University of Illinois researcher, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- The study compiled data from 22,000 people's dietary choices over a decade and compared the eating habits for drinkers of five different beverage categories: diet or sugar-free drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, coffee, tea, and alcohol.
- While diet soda drinkers tended to consume fewer calories in a day, more of those calories came from less nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods.
The hits keep on coming for diet soda, which has seen steady declines along with the rest of the soda industry. In the latest quarter, Diet Coke volumes dropped 7% after falling 6% the quarter before.
The reasons why people reach for both diet soda and cookies or French fries is unclear, but the study's researcher Ruopeng An has a few ideas.
"It may be that people who consume diet beverages feel justified in eating more, so they reach for a muffin or a bag of chips. Or perhaps, in order to feel satisfied, they feel compelled to eat more of these high-calorie foods," An said in a statement. An also said that consumers might choose diet beverages to balance out the guilt of eating unhealthy foods.
"It may be one – or a mix of – these mechanisms," An said in a statement. "We don’t know which way the compensation effect goes."