The Mormon Obesity Epidemic: Why Diet Soft Drinks Make Us Fat


Most LDS people struggling with their weight think they’re cutting back on calories by drinking diet soda instead of sugar-based soft drinks. What they don’t know is diet soda is 100 times more fattening than sugar-based soda.

Research conducted at BYU on religion and obesity shows Mormons are 34% more likely to be overweight than members of other religions.

This LDS obesity epidemic is graphically evident when you visit various Utah LDS wards—you might observe that 70%+ of adults over 35 years of age are overweight and nearly 45% of LDS youth tip the scales (consistent with USA population obesity rates). 

Why is this the case when Mormon’s have and subscribe to a very specific health code that should lead to lean, healthy bodies?

Addicted to Diet Soda?

Utah is one of the leading U.S. states in the consumption of diet and sugar-based soft drinks. Nearly 60% of Utah adults drink one soda per day, and 8% drink more than one a day, according to a recent Utah government survey.

Diet Coke is one of the most popular Utah soft drinks. It’s also the drink of choice in the highly popular drive-by soft drink shops that dot street corners in many Utah towns.

All one has to do to witness this phenomenon is to observe the number of cars perpetually backed up at each drive-up soda “dispensary.” Thirsty customers eagerly await to have their 64-oz. soda mugs refilled— some punch-card members returning over 250 times a year to get their fixes, according to one company’s founder.

70% of Customers Are Mothers with Young Kids

According to another soda-shop owner the majority of his customers—upwards of 70%—are women. Most are mothers of young kids and many come by once or twice a day to refill their 64 oz. mugs filled with“flavor enhanced” Diet Coke. 

If you look inside the car you’ll notice that the many of the soft drink consumers are overweight. Why are they overweight if they’re consuming only a few calories in each super-sized container? Many think their weight problem may be due to multiple pregnancies, fatigue, and stress. Sounds logical, right? 

But can the culprit really be diet soda?

Diet Soda is 100 Time More Fattening Than Regular Soda

Most weight-conscious people know that a typical can of regular soda contains about a hefty cup of white sugar or corn syrup and is dense in calories. So, many calorie-conscious consumers avoid the sugar-laced drinks. They think they’re cutting back on calories by drinking diet soda instead. 

What they don’t know is diet soda is 100 times more fattening than sugar-based soda. 

Artificial Sweeteners and Our Brain's “Cephalic Response”

Artificial sweeteners confuse our bodies chemically, according to the authors of the BYU-researched and Word of Wisdom-based, “The New Neuropsychology of Weight Control” weight loss program.  

They reveal that our brain’s fat-regulating mechanism (the hypothalamus) constantly monitors the concentration of sweetness in our blood. Artificial sweeteners are at least 100 times more concentrated in sweetness than regular sugar and wrecks havoc on the brain. When sweet levels get too high or concentrated our brain triggers what's called a "cephalic response." 

When this happens our insulin levels increase to dangerous levels, our body manufacturers excess insulin, our cells become insulin resistant (insulin is needed in the cells to burn fat) and the sugar is converted to fats stores.  

We get fatter and fatter and our appetite for fatty and sugary (refined carbohydrates) food dramatically increases resulting in powerful cravings. This ultimately, over time, leads to chronic obesity, pre-diabetes and ultimately Type-II Diabetes with all of its unpleasant complications.


This Knowledge Is Part of a BYU-Researched, Word of Wisdom-Based Weight Control Program

This diet soda-obesity connection is discussed in the highly successful weight control program called “The New Neuropsychology of Weight Control.” This program was developed at the BYU Human Performance Research Laboratory and has been used successfully by over 1.3 million people worldwide. Click here to read the dramatic first-hand stories of 21 people who were able to go from chronic obesity to leanness and health by this word of wisdom-inspired program.

If You insist on Drinking Soda, You're Better Off Drinking Sugar-Sweetened Soda

It's not an issue of calories but of concentration of sweetness that makes the difference. In this case, artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks trigger our brain's cephalic response. 

Artificial sweeteners make and keep us overweight and increase our cravings for more sweets. They don't help us lose weight but cause us to gain weight as they increase our hunger and cravings more and more for unhealthy foods. 

Sugar-Laced Soda Also Makes Us Fat

Though sugar-laced soda is less harmful than diet drinks, drinking one 12 oz. can a day can still trigger insulin resistance and makes us fat, fatter, and unhealthy.

Sodium Also Wrecks Havoc with Our Metabolism & Stimulates Fat Storage

Soft drinks deal a double obesity and disease whammy. Besides the artificial sweeteners and sugar causing major problems, the sodium in all soft drinks raises our blood pressure and damages our body's cell membranes, impairing their ability to convert fat into energy. So, much of our sugar and fat intake isn't burned for energy but is converted and stored as excess body fat.

Best Alternative: Homemade Fruit/Berry/Herb-Infused Water

Your best bet is to skip diet and regular sodas altogether. Substitute homemade fruit/berry/herb-nfused water when you want liquid options other than soft drinks. Drink plenty of water as well, and be aware of the effects that both diet and sugar-laced soda can have on your health, body fat, appetite and eating habits.


To learn more about “The New Neuropsychology of Weight Control” and to receive a 50% discount available to LDS Living subscribers go to

Lead image from Grant Grayson

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