Sweetness without calories sounded like the ultimate free lunch, and when sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose were introduced they were thought to be the answer to both our sugar cravings and to our desire to be slim.

Alas, quite surprisingly, diet drinks are associated with weight gain in several long-term large studies, even after results are controled for the fact that heavier people are more likely to choose diet drinks. To be fair, not all studies have shown the diet-drink obesity link, and it remains unclear exactly how a drink with no calories can make you fat. Do diet drinks mess with our satiety signals? Do they create a craving for sweetness that triggers overeating? Or are we feeling good about opting for a non-caloric drink and rewarding ourselves with compensatory calories later?

To find out how non-caloric sweeteners affect our food thoughts and food choices, new research, published ahead of print in Appetite, served Solo cups with either Sprite, Sprite Zero, or unsweetened Kroger lemon-lime sparkling water to students and conducted three neat experiments.

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