Everybody knows that diet drinks help you lose weight—or do they? Does drinking Diet Coke actually lead to weight gain and increased risks of metabolic disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease? That’s what the complaint for this class action claims, adding that the “diet” part of the name “Diet Coke” is false, misleading, and unlawful.
The class for this action is all persons in New York who, on or after October 11, 2011, bought Diet Coke, in cans or bottles, for personal or household use.
Diet Coke claims to promote weigh loss because it has no calories and contains aspartame, a nonnutritive artificial sweetener. The term “diet” implies that drinking it will help with weight loss or health management, or at least that it will not result in weight gain. However, the complaint claims that in fact aspartame causes weight gain.
According to the complaint, nonnutritive sweeteners are typically 300 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. It quotes a 2009 article that claims that a diet with nonnutritive sweeteners “promotes energy intake and contributes to obesity.” A 2010 article is quoted as claiming that data from “large, epidemiologic studies” finds a link between artificially sweetened drinks and weight gain in children.
In 2013, the complaint says, a Purdue University researcher reviewed studies of those who drink diet soda and those who don’t, including over 450,000 participants across fourteen studies with an average sixteen-year follow-ups and found that those who drink diet soda “may be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease” and that “frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.”
A 2014 study quoted by the complaint claims that artificial sweeteners promotes the development of glucose intolerance by making changes to microbiota in the intestines.
The complaint goes on to quote other studies, through 2017, that show that artificially-sweetened drinks do not help with weight loss and are likely to increase health risks.
How does this happen? The complaint claims that when sweetness does not reflect the amount of calories available, the body becomes confused and reduces metabolism, storing more calories in the body. Also, the complaint quotes a study that shows that when this happens, reward circuits in the brain did not register that calories had been consumed, meaning that the sweetness of a drink can play a role in the body’s response to food.
For these reasons, the complaint claims that Coca-Cola’s marketing of Diet Coke as a weight-loss drink is false and misleading, violating Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and New York state labeling regulations.