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Can Diet Soda Make You Hungry?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I've read several reports recently that said diet soda can still make people fat. The sweet taste drives a hunger response even though there are no calories. The ensuing hunger may cause them to overeat.

I didn't pay much attention. Diet sodas are safe for diabetic because they don't cause a blood glucose rise. If they don't cause blood glucose to rise, then they should be safe for me, too, because I'm not diabetic. Or so I thought.

However, over the past July 4th weekend, I may have changed my mind.

We stayed near Miami for the weekend. My husband and I took a day trip down to the Florida Keys on one of the days. We relaxed in the oh-so-blue-and-clear water, wandered around Key West, then headed back towards Miami. We stopped a seafood restaurant on the waterfront for dinner around sunset.

I ordered peel and eat shrimp, bowl of conch chowder, and a side salad. I avoided an alcoholic beverage (though I wanted one) because it was very hot and I was a touch dehydrated. I ordered a diet Coke, which they gave me in a large 16oz glass. I don't drink much diet soda these days, but we were on 'vacation'. The 'sweet' and saltiness of the diet Coke was very satisfying. I slurped down two of them.

The next morning, I woke up with insatiable hunger. The type where I would eat anything if I could get my hands on it. The uncontrollable type where I couldn't stop myself if wanted to. I never get hungry like that anymore. I only get like that if I eat a monster dessert or a big plate of pasta. I had neither the day before. What the heck?

I woke the DH and said I was hungry. He grumbled like a sleepy bear, and put the pillow over his head. Ok, breakfast was on my own. I made my way to a Whole Foods. The breakfast counter wasn't quite ready, and I was nearly out of my mind. I paced the store like a tiger waiting for feeding time at the zoo.

Snarl. Whine. Grrrrr.

Finally, the buffet was filled. I grabbed two hard boiled eggs, a fairly normal breakfast for me. They didn't have any bacon or fruit, so I just made off with the eggs. Two eggs are normally plenty to leave me feeling full at breakfast. When I get hunger cravings at home, eating a homemade pickled egg usually does the trick.

Except two eggs did absolutely nothing to lower my hunger levels this time. I still felt like I hadn't eaten at all.

Desperation. What do I do? Get more eggs, which were the only protein choice on the breakfast buffet that morning?

I decided to buy a package of buffalo jerky. I ate a plains Indian breakfast that morning - eggs and buffalo jerky. The Apache probably had a water skin instead of my Americano, though.

It was an 8oz package of buffalo jerky. I devoured about half of it.

And...it worked. My hunger was finally under control. I regained lucid thoughts that didn't involve food. 2 eggs and an extra full serving size of 4oz protein was way more than my usual breakfast.

Today, I had one over easy egg and a 2oz piece of leftover pork from last night. I feel satisfied - it's enough. I effectively ate double that after my mysterious hunger surge last weekend.

Now I tried to think, what the heck happened? What set that off?

My meals the day before:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1oz strip of ham, handful of berries.
Lunch: Salad greens with strawberries, salami and cheese antipasti (4oz), handful of cherries.
Dinner: Peel and eat shrimp (8oz), conch chowder and side salad.

I didn't feel hungry at all during the day. It was pretty normal. No carby, sugary trigger foods...

Oh wait.

The diet Coke?

I must have drank 32 oz of it with dinner. I rarely ever drink that much. I drink it on occasion, but I don't like massive quantities of artificial sweeteners on a regular basis. But I was hot, and I remembered the sweet/saltiness being very refreshing...

I believe that tripped an insulin surge, even though I didn't have anything carby/sugary. If I drank a small glass, maybe I would have had a little extra hungriness that would never register on my radar as being unusual. The quantity I drank was unusual, and may have caused a very noticeable response.

Going back to my recent blog themes about taking notes and learning what your body is communicating, this one is definitely going down in my register. I do not like that out of control hunger. It is why I've stuck with and enjoyed eating low-carb. I don't get that way anymore. I don't like being unable to focus on anything else but eating.

I was weening myself off diet sodas before, but now I am more wary of them. I won't be so quick to dismiss the studies about them driving hunger, even in the absence of calories anymore.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I went through a similar scenario with my morning coffee. Because I use sweetener in my coffee, I never drink it unless I've also had a high protein, low-carb breakfast OR I'm about to go for a run. A coffee is nowhere NEAR the amount of "sugar" in a diet soda, yet I can still feel a sizable impact on my hunger levels for the rest of the morning. I can only imagine what it's like for folks who drink diet soda all day long -- their bodies must go through chaos.

    Which reminds me, did you read about the girl who was hospitalized for an addition to Coca-cola? As if we needed proof that so much caffeine and corn syrup is detrimental.... http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepag
    2046 days ago
    Non-nutritive sweeteners trigger cravings and often binges later in the day for me.

    A diet coke for lunch can set me up for a night-eating binge in the evening.

    The only time I can drink diet sodas safely is at night, and I suspect it's because I'm asleep during the time the craving would normally be happening.
    2046 days ago
    BESTMEICANB80: I was really surprised about my reaction. I can't say for sure that was it, but at this point, it is the most likely suspect. This morning I ate a 2 egg omelet and I'm full. That's normal for me. That day last weekend, I was out of control and the 2 eggs did nothing for my hunger. I'm certainly going to make more of an effort to stick with non-cola choices from here on out.

    NEILITHICMAN: I always enjoy reading your comments! That's really interesting about the caffeine. I wonder if it revs up your metabolism, causing you to feel less hungry! I have a cup of coffee every morning, but I usually don't have any more caffeine for the rest of the day. My next substance is usually a glass of wine or beer in the evening, but that has more of a sedating effect, rather than wind up!

    WOUBBIE: Hmmm! Very interesting! I'm not sure on the mechanism yet, but I am now a believer on the circumstantial evidence.
    2047 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/13/2012 9:36:52 AM
    Really interesting. I was just reading the other day about how artificial sweeteners trigger short chain fatty acids, which then act to fool your body into thinking it's not full yet. So. Totally believable.

    Here's one source:

    2047 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/12/2012 11:47:10 PM
    I've found that diet cola makes me hungrier. There are only certain times that I have one and I have to be careful about managing the 'munchies'.
    2047 days ago
    Always enjoy your blogs. For me personally I find it depends on how much caffene is in the drink. Diet drinks do seem to increase my hunger but if it's diet energy drinks like red bull or V then the high levels of caffene seems to kill off the appetite. I try to avoid any type of soft drinks if I can and I prefer to make my own lemon, ginger and honey green tea, but some days when I'm really struggling to stay awake I'll get an energy drink.
    2048 days ago
    I love the way you are sharing your experiences of listening to and figuring out what your body is saying and I'm extra glad I didn't get the 24 oz. drink with my lunch. Instead DH and I both a quart of lowfat chocolate milk and I drank about 8 oz. ate half my grilled chicken sandwich and feel full. It's good to know I won't have binge fever tomorrow.
    2048 days ago
    wow that is very interesting...i'm glad you shared this!! I am a caffeine addict, I love coffee with sugar and sodas. I've been trying for years to quit them, and more and more every day I am trying to harder than ever before. This is just one more reason for me quit them. Now that you mention this, I too notice that the weeks I don't drink soda at all my hunger is much easier to satisfy. When I drink coffee or sodas, I seem to be hungry all the time!! You are so right on with a journal, I used to keep one, sounds like i'll be starting one up again!! emoticon
    2048 days ago
    Sounds like you handled it well.

    I know that I adore Diet Orange Crushes...so I stay away from them...I'm learning that anything that I "crave" is a warning flag to stay away!
    2048 days ago
    SALONKITTY: I've been pondering whether the 'sweet' taste triggers the pancreas, or whether it happens when something sweet reacts to enzymes in the stomach. I'm not really sure. I'm thinking it is enzymes because fructose tastes sweet, but doesn't cause an insulin release like glucose. So I don't think the taste buds activate the pancreas.

    BEATLETOT: Wouldn't hurt to try for a week or two, and see how you feel!
    2048 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/12/2012 12:52:11 PM
    Very, very interesting blog! I still drink a ton of diet soda, though I'd like to give it up...I wonder if I would feel less hungry if I didn't...I don't feel ravenous very often, but maybe...it's an intriguing thought, anyway. =)
    2048 days ago
    I've quit the diet soda entirely.
    2048 days ago
    Every once in awhile I drink a diet Coke and am immediately reminded why I gave it up. I really don't feel well quite a while after drinking it. SOOOOO glad I ditched it. I used to have two diet cokes a day.
    2048 days ago
    Very interesting...
    2048 days ago
  • BILL60
    2048 days ago
    I thought that diet sodas made me feel hungrier a couple years back when I was drinking them regularly. Is it just the sweet taste? Or does it have to do with the chemicals they contain? Anyway, good on you for identifying the culprit and looking further into it. Oh, and I wondered about the chowder too, but I see that you said it was tomato based...
    2048 days ago
    TAMPATINK67: Great thoughts! The chowder was tomato based, and I dipped my peel-n-eat shrimp in butter. :) This was a good quality restaurant where they catch their fish fresh daily, and used real butter. No HFCS.
    2048 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/12/2012 9:10:37 AM
    was the chowder a thick cream based? if so, it may also have had a flour base to the roux... did you use the cocktail sauce with the peel and eat? if so, it was probably made with HFCS ketchup.

    even if the soup was a clear broth and you skipped the cocktail sauce, I wanted to highlight those two potential areas of hidden carbs for other that may read your blog - and combined w the diet cola... I was thrilled to read that you were able to identify the trigger and manage the cravings!!!!
    2048 days ago
    2048 days ago
    Interesting....off to research!
    BTW, great blog! emoticon
    2048 days ago
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