Diet soda sells newspapers and banner ads

Posted in Society at 15:31 by RjZ

Have you heard that drinking diet soda can lead to weight gain instead of weight loss? Something about this idea was very attractive to me because, from my point of view, soda seems pretty worthless. Why, I ask, would any reasonable adult want to drink such a cloyingly sweet over-carbonated beverage when there’s beer? Mmmm, beer.

Sorry. Where was I? I rather liked the irony of it all, but when I actually did a quick internet search I was disappointed. This meme has quickly spread through society probably because I am not the only one secretly snickering at the irony of it all. It doesn’t hurt that all the soda drinkers were pretty scared of the news either.

In fact, though, there’s only the one study that several news sources reported on over and over again, adding quotes and experts to fill up the news hour with entertaining fear. CBS news cites the study’s author and two more ‘experts’ along with quotes from a couple of consumers. Fox News started off with a more flamboyant headline and peppered their coverage with quite a bit more statistics, but, like dozens of other reports, cited Ms. Fowler’s originally study which was reported to WebMD.

I didn’t find any corroborating studies. More importantly, Ms. Fowler doesn’t hesitate to point out that this study does not examine a causal link between diet soda and obesity. Fowler speculates that the body, once fooled, may crave that which it was deceived:

“If you offer your body something that tastes like a lot of calories, but it isn’t there, your body is alerted to the possibility that there is something there and it will search for the calories promised but not delivered,”

That too, seems compelling, but for now, it’s speculation. Unproven, interesting, speculation. Fowlers intriguing study is one bit of evidence that shows correlation between obesity and soda, and more surprisingly, obesity and diet soda. I learned long ago that correlation does not imply causation, but it looks like it’s enough to sell newspapers (or banner ads).


  1. Aaron said,

    May 21, 2007 at 18:17

    Nothing’s as delicious as irony
    and it has no calories

  2. RjZ said,

    May 22, 2007 at 6:57

    I think this article may have been worth writing, if only as the straight man for that last comment!

  3. Traveling Hypothesis » Diet soda may sell still more newspapers said,

    February 23, 2008 at 12:23

    [...] was such an attractive argument that I am glad there may be some truth to it after all. In this post, I pointed out how the media is quick to jump on an uncorroborated story, simply to sell newspapers [...]

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