The Health Risks of Drinking Diet Soda Are Worse Than We Thought
For the last several decades, diet soda largely has been viewed as a good substitute for typical soda in the public eye, featuring no calories, and often, supposedly no negative impacts. However, a large body of recent research suggests otherwise.
Now, new research suggests that diet soda may increase your waistline and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Scary Domino Effect of Diet Soda
According to newly published research in the Journal of American Geriatrics, diet soda may directly impact waist size, increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, and thereby increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
This research, conducted via the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, focused on adults 65 years of age and older. Utilizing a population of 749 people of Mexican-American and European-American descent, research began in the mid-1990s, and tracked the participants for over nine years. Over the course of the study, researchers tracked the participants’ consumption of diet soda, along with their waist circumference, height, and weight, at four intervals over the course of the study, including three times during a follow-up period.
Amazingly, differences were very noticeable at every interval in the study. On average, people who abstained from diet soda exhibited an increase in waist circumference by 0.30 inches, while occasional users’ waistlines increased by 0.69 inches, and daily diet soda drinkers’ waistlines increased by a whopping 1.20 inches.
Moreover, these results continued to advance over the entire course of the study. At conclusion, abstainers from diet soda showed only a 0.80-inch average increase, while occasional drinkers and daily drinkers increased their waistlines by an average of 1.83 inches and 3.16 inches, respectively.
Possible Explanations and Cautions
The fact that the researchers found such a uniform, consistent increase that was found across all the subjects, from non-drinkers to occasional drinkers to daily drinkers, is highly alarming. Furthermore, the researchers adjusted their data for multiple potential confounding factors, lending strength to the findings.
Based on their results the researchers speculated that diet soda intake was associated with increasing abdominal obesity, which in turn can increase cardiometablic risks among older adults and impact cardiovascular health. As a result, the researchers recommended that older adjust should limit or discontinue their consumption of artificially sweetened drinks, especially if they are already subject to a higher degree of cardiometabolic risk.
Although the study was conducted solely with people over age 65, everyone should strongly consider this recommendation, as it’s entirely possible that these same issues may impact younger people.
As the list of reasons to avoid diet soda grows longer and longer, the time to stop drinking it is now. In fact, even an occasional regular soda—with its heavy concentration of high fructose corn syrup and calories—is probably a better choice, but the best choice would be to avoid both of these options altogether. Alternative sodas that are sweetened with cane sugar are available, and sparking water is another potential source of carbonation. Of course, giving up soda and artificial or sugar-sweetened beverages altogether is the best option.
If you’re a moderate or heavy soda drinker, try to scale down gradually, and start to drink more tea, water, or other natural drinks in its place. Over time you’ll likely develop a taste for less and less sugar, and before long, the taste of soda may not even appeal to you anymore. But regardless of what route you choose, it’s time to abandon diet soda.
Derek is a technical writer and editor with 10 years of experience in the health care field, having first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Delaware. He is a contributing author on a number of textbooks in the medical field, ran a nuclear cardiology licensing course, and has written a variety of other pieces from online training courses to medical software manuals. Derek pursues his personal interest in health and wellness by playing multiple sports and running marathons. An insatiable traveler, he spent 16 months working and living abroad while traveling through South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.