Drinking diet soda in an attempt to shed pounds may pack them on instead. Even worse, the artificial sweeteners they contain may promote the onset of type 2 diabetes. The discouraging news comes from researchers at the University of Texas, San Antonio. The findings of the research were recently presented at the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) Scientific Sessions in San Diego, California.
Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology of the Texas University School of Medicine and lead author of the decade-long study, stated, “Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised.” She then added, “They may be free of calories but not of consequences.” Hazuda’s is the fourth large-scale study to indicate that consuming diet soda is detrimental to health.
For their study, Hazuda’s team analyzed composite data from 474 participants of the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA), a large, population-based study of the disablement process in both elderly Mexican and European Americans. Participants reported their intake of diet soda at the beginning of the study, and were also measured for height, weight and waist circumference. The study subjects were then tracked in terms of their diet soda intake and body fat for an average of nine and one-half years.
Findings showed that although the waistlines of all participants expanded to some extent, those who were diet soda drinkers had a waistline increase that was 70 percent higher than those who did not partake of the low-calorie drinks. Adding insult to injury, those who consumed two or more diet sodas daily saw their waistlines expand a a rate that was five times greater than non-drinkers. The results remained true even after the researchers adjusted for other contributing factors such as physical activity levels, age, and diabetes status.
Although the data did not indicate the reason that drinking diet soda promotes weight gain, previous research suggests that because the brain expects calories to be associated with the sweet-tasting drinks, when none are present, the body begins to store more calories as fat.
Researcher, Sharon Fowler noted, “Artificial sweeteners could have the effect of triggering appetite but unlike regular sugars they don’t deliver something that will squelch the appetite.” Therefore, those who need their soda fix may be better served by consuming full-calorie sodas in moderation instead.