Weight loss is based on a simple equation of using more calories than you take in. And if you eat more calories then you burn, you will gain weight. Replacing a calorie rich drink (such as soda) with a noncalorie drink (such as water or diet soda) seems like a reasonable step toward decreasing the amount of calories you take in and helping with weight loss. However, some believe that noncaloric drinks may increase consumption of others foods either because a person isn't satisfied or they reward themselves for "being good". Weight loss efforts could be hampered if increased consumption of other foods occurred. However, this idea had never been tested in a rigorous study.
Researchers from the United States conducted a trial to help determine if replacing caloric beverages with water or noncaloric sweet drinks led to weight loss in people who were overweight. The trial, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that replacing caloric drinks with noncalorie options led to greater weight loss.
The randomized trial included 318 adults who were overweight or obese. All the participants reported drinking at least 280 calories in sweetened drink products per day. This may include sugar sweetened beverages, juice, juice drinks, sweetened coffee, tea or milk, sports drinks or alcohol. The participants were then divided into three groups:
At six months, 5% weight loss was achieved in:
Randomized trials are considered a very reliable method of research. These trials attempt to account for other influences that affect weight loss by splitting patients into a control group and a treatment group. This step can help to clarify that the outcomes are in fact related to the treatment. Most studies on benefits from noncaloric beverages are observational. Observational studies do not control for other factors that can affect weight loss or weight gain, which may lead to confusing outcomes.
The basic principal of this study was that replacing a regular beverage with a noncaloric beverage might help create a calorie deficit. The replacements may have lowered daily calorie intake by at least 200 calories with the replacement of a full calorie drink. If you are trying to lose weight, track your drinks for the day. If you have more than two drinks per day that are sweetened or sugary drinks, including fruit juices, consider substituting water or noncaloric drinks to help keep your calorie consumption in check. Small gradual changes like this may make dietary changes easier to swallow.
American Dietetic Association
The Obesity Society
Tate DF, Turner-McGrievy G, Lyons E, et al. Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main results of the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trial.Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;95(3):555-63.
Last reviewed March 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD