This recent report on Yahoo! Style claims that diet drinks may reduce the digestive system’s response to calorie intake leading to higher levels of snacking and higher calorie intake when diet drinks are taken with meals.
The argument runs like this (my emphasis):
We’ve all ordered fast food and thought it a good idea to offset the carbs with a diet drink.
It turns out that theory might not be right after all.
New research suggests that we might be better off ordering the full-fat version of our favourite drinks to guzzle down post-meal instead.
When diet drinks are consumed on their own, the artificial sweeteners - which are used as sugar replacements - have no impact.
When consumed alongside a carb heavy meal, the sweeteners act to decrease the brain’s response to sweet tastes.
That means we’re more likely to eat sweet treats to satisfy our cravings.
But the research was conducted on a small sample of people (45) and didn't study behaviour (just some brain responses, not what people actually consumed). And it seems to fly in the face of intuition: sweet drinks are full of empty calories, would any real effect be larger than their contribution to calorie consumption? So there are reasons to be skeptical.
So, is the claim that you should consume sugary drinks with carb-heavy meals to reduce your calorie consumption when compared to diet drinks credible?