What Diet Soda Does to Belly Fat

Kelly Cavanaugh


The article "What Diet Soda Does to Belly Fat" from Time Magazine on March 17, 2015 by Mandy Oaklander examines a study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It correlates the consumption of soda and other artificial sweeteners to weight gain. In the study people over the age of 65 were asked every several years on average how many cans of soda they drink a day and if it were diet or regular. In conclusion, those who drank diet soda regularly gained more abdominal fat than those who didn't. Oaklander then explained that increased belly fat has also been linked to an increase risk in cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. She mentions how scientists are still unsure why zero to no-calorie sweeteners impact weight gain. However, Oaklander quotes the senior author on the study, Dr. Hazuda, who suggests a hypothesis that artificial sweeteners confuse our bodies. It becomes hard for our bodies to distinguish between the sweetness and calories of artificial sugars, causing weight gain and an increased craving for sweet treats.

Oaklander references two more studies which were done on mice, the first about artificial sweeteners making them resistant to insulin and intolerant to glucose. The second shows a decrease in leptin, a hormone which inhibits hunger. A response made by the Calorie Control Council, which represents zero and no-calorie sweeteners, is given. The council is said to have stated that the use of low-calories sweeteners in weight management has been shown beneficial. Oaklander also mentions that most of the people in the study who reported gaining more abdominal fat and drinking diet soda were already overweight at the start of the study, possibly enticing another variable for weight gain over the period of time.


The author of this article, Mandy Oaklander, does not have any qualifications in the field of nutrition. She is not a registered dietician or nutritionist; she is a journalist for Time Magazine who focuses in nutrition and health. Oaklander does establish some credibility in her article, she does not try to sell anything and she writes for Time, an established and well-known magazine. It’s important, although, to understand Time Magazine does not specialize in health and nutrition, but in social and pop culture. Oaklander’s position in the article is made clear with the subtitle, “More evidence that diet soda contributes to weight gain, not weight loss.” She supports this through her use of sources and evidence from various studies. However, she does not completely justify the validity of her sources. Oaklander builds the framework of her article around the Journal of the American Geriatric Society’s study on diet soda and weight grain. She explains the participants of the study and the results. But, it is left unclear about how long the study was conducted and the overall health status of those participating in the study from the start. We also do not know if the participants regularly ate any other sources of artificial sweeteners, or if it were only from diet soda. Oaklander does mention at the end that those who were initially over weight were the ones who gained the most weight during the study, but she does not go into further detail. However, her reference to Dr. Hazuda was helpful because it established the scientific understanding for why artificial sweeteners might aid in weight gain.

Oaklander brings up the Calorie Control Council’s response that low-calorie sweeteners benefits weight management, but she does not elaborate how beneficial with facts or data from the council. Another flaw in the credibility of Oaklander’s sources is the reference to the two studies done on mice. She explains the findings of the studies, but it is not mentioned in the article who conducted the studies, when the studies were conducted, or the variables of these studies. While the results may be true, she doesn’t provide any validity or reliability to them. Oaklander does provide links outside the article to the study done by the Journal of the American Geriatric Society and one of the mice studies, but not the other.

Overall, the article provides mostly credible information and links to sources, although their validity is not entirely stated throughout the article. In order to learn more about the relationship between diet soda intake and abdominal weight gain readers can follow the links to the studies themselves. For articles with more reliability, readers can also look to articles written by health and nutrition specialists. More credible information can also be found from other direct sources, such as those from government or educational websites, rather than from magazine articles like Time.