With a push to look lean and fit over the past two decades the consumption of diet sodas has risen dramatically. Most people assume that diet sodas are also better for them then the non-diet kind, which contains a fair amount of sugars. However there are recent studies indicating a correlation between drinking diet soda and metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes that also include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels — and elevated blood pressure. The studies indicate that drinking diet sodas can also raise the A1C levels of people who have diabetes. And drinking them is also associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
A recent study published in the Annals of Epidemiology last year, found that adults with diabetes who drank one or more diet sodas per day had A1C levels was 0.7 percent higher than those who drank none. That difference is about what we can expect when we start a good new diabetes medication and take it for a year.
An eight-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio indicated that those who drank several cans of diet soda every day were more likely to become overweight or obese than those who drank several regular sodas. The study was reported at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.
A 2007 study published the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation tracked the health of more than 6,000 middle-aged adults, and found that those who drank one or more soft drinks – whether diet or regular – had an increased risk for metabolic syndrome compared with those who didn’t drink as many sodas. The authors of the Circulation study led by Ravi Dhingra, MD, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, think that the high level of sweetness due to the artificial sweeteners like aspartame “may lead to conditioning for a greater preference for intake of sweetened items.” The authors also suggest that, “The caramel content of both regular and diet drinks may be a potential source of advanced glycation end products, which may promote insulin resistance and can be pro-inflammatory.”
The American Beverage Association Fights back
Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, which represents soft-drink companies, maintains that, “it is scientifically implausible to suggest that diet soft drinks – a beverage that is 99 percent water – cause weight gain or elevated blood pressure.”
Fact or Fiction?
The current studies do not conclusively prove that diet soda or the non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame are the causal factors for Metabolic Syndrome. The studies merely report an association or correlation.
What Does it all Mean?
Although the jury is still out as to whether diet sodas are actually harmful, there are many studies questioning the healthiness of this favorite beverage,
Could the over consumption of high glycemic foods and less fiber be the real culprit?
It is widely known that western diets include high intakes of refined grains, fried foods and red meat and that such diets are associated with an approximate 20% increased risk for Metabolic Syndrome. Studies also show that a dominated by good fats, fish, poultry fruits, and vegetables do not increase this risk.