Beverage Switch and Weight Loss

May 01, 2012

A simple beverage switch can lead to weight loss. Find out what researchers recently found out about our drinking habits

According to a recent study from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, replacing caloric, sugar-sweetened beverages with water and diet beverages could be part of an effective weight-loss strategy. Researchers found that swapping out caloric beverages for non-caloric beverages resulted in average weight loss of 2 to 2.5 percent.

Researchers hypothesized that substituting a non-caloric beverage, whether it was water or diet beverages, would lead to significant weight loss. This study was unique in that it was one of the first randomized controlled trials to explore the issue of beverage substitution and weight loss. To prove their theory, researchers compared the replacement of caloric beverages with water or diet beverages as a method of weight loss, over a six-month period in adults.

People who switched to calorie-free beverages were twice as likely to lose five percent or more of their body weight than those who were not counseled to change beverages. People in the water group had lower fasting glucose levels (blood sugar) and better hydration levels than the control group.

Interestingly, it was slightly easier for the diet beverage group to reduce calories in the short-term, at three months – as compared to the water group. People may do better slowly weaning themselves off caffeine as they transition to water, says Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy, one of the study’s authors and Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Turner-McGrievy and colleagues are exploring how sweet preference plays a similar role in adhering to the beverage substitution recommendations over time.

The group that was not counseled to switch beverages received general information on weight loss so they made choices on how they would decrease their caloric intake (and some did through reducing their beverage intake). Meanwhile, the water group experienced some benefits in greater numbers than the diet beverage group – like improved fasting glucose and hydration.

Over 20% of our calories are now coming from sugar-sweetened beverages. Staying away from these beverages can provide a great and easy way to cut calories, without making a huge lifestyle change.

This article first appeared in Food Nutrition and Science