Diet drinks more effective than water in weight loss

Each group consumed at least 24 ounces of liquid per day. (AP)

WASHINGTON — Which is better to drink if you want to lose weight: water or diet drinks?

Nutritionists have long steered dieters away from artificially sweetened beverages, citing long-term studies that indicate they could increase cravings for sweets and sabotage weight loss. Some also have raised questions about the safety of the chemicals used to replace sugar — from saccharine to aspartame.

But a study under way at the University of Colorado and Temple University seems to be coming to a different conclusion.

Researchers there are following 303 men and women ages 21-65 in a weight-loss program, who have been split into two groups. Water is the only beverage permitted for the first group; the other dieters also can drink artificially sweetened beverages.

After the first 12 weeks, the diet-soda drinkers were crowned the biggest losers. While the water-only group lost, on average, 9 pounds, those who guzzled diet sodas and teas lost roughly 13.

When the results were published in the journal Obesity, critics pointed to the fact the study was funded by the American Beverage Association. Also, they charged that 12 weeks was far too short a time to gauge the contribution diet drinks can make to weight loss.

The authors of the study say they plan to keep it going for a year, and they vehemently deny accusations that the beverage industry influenced their work.

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