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Water vs. Zero Calorie “Diet” Drinks

New study will examine how each affects weight loss and weight maintenance

10/31/2012
Glass of water

​By Marcia Neville | University Communications

AURORA, Colo. - Dieting and zero-calorie drinks just seem to go together. In a search for flavor and satisfaction, many dieters choose those so-called “diet” beverages over the recommended water during their efforts to lose weight.

But, do zero calorie drinks offer the same benefits during weight loss as water? Can dieters replace water with zero-calorie drinks and successfully lose weight? 
 
“There have been a lot of studies showing that non-caloric soft drinks are a better choice during weight loss than caloric drinks, but there’s never been a study comparing zero-calorie beverages with water,” explained John C. Peters, PhD, chief strategy officer at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. “This will be the first one.” 
 
CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center Executive Director James O. Hill, PhD, is the principal investigator on the new Zero-Calorie Drink Study. Peters is co-principal investigator with Holly Wyatt, MD. Half of the study will be conducted at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and half will be conducted at Temple University. 
 
Peters pointed out that this is an “equivalency” study, researching whether drinking zero-calorie drinks is the same as drinking water during weight loss or while maintaining a healthy weight. “This study has great consumer relevance,” continues Peters. “They’ve been told to drink water to control their weight, but they ask whether it’s acceptable to drink zero-calorie drinks instead. 
 
“The hypothesis is that the two should be the same, but, we don’t know. This question has never been researched before. I would not expect to see any significant difference between the two. If there are, I would be surprised,” Peters said. 
 
Participants in the study must be regular drinkers of zero-calorie “diet” beverages and be above the ideal body weight. They must also be healthy enough to participate in a weight-loss program. 
 
The study will last for one year and, during that time, half of the participants will drink zero-calorie diet beverages while the other half will drink water.
 
Additionally, all participants at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center will be required to take part in the Colorado Weigh weight management program. The program will include three months of weight loss and nine months of weight maintenance -- provided free of charge. 
 
“Colorado Weigh is one of the premier weight-management programs based on teaching healthy behaviors in the entire country,” said Peters. “It provides information about making healthy choices that participants will take with them and use long after the study is over. It’s interesting to note that we have a lot of experience using diet beverages in our Colorado Weigh program. We know they work but, until now, there hasn’t been any research done to prove it.”  
 
150 people are being recruited for the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center portion of the study. Four research groups will be selected beginning now and stretching in to early spring 2013. Participants currently are being screened and enrolled. They will be compensated. 

To be considered to participate:
- Must live in the Denver, Colo. metro area
- Age 21- 65
- Drink three or more zero calorie diet beverages per week
- Above ideal body weight (BMI 27-40)
- Non-smoker
- Healthy enough to be in a weight-loss program
- Non-diabetic 
 
For more information: rebecca.stark@ucdenver.edu or  gabriela.aguayo@ucdenver.edu
  
The University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center opened in April 2012. It is an innovative, state-of-the art research, education and patient care facility located on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The center’s mission is to transform the lives of individuals and communities through science-based wellness strategies. The center is part of the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine.
 
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