Not all diet foods are good for your health, and diet soda may top the list. Though the beverage may sound waistline-friendly with its zero-calorie label, you may want to think twice before cracking open your next can. A 2015 study from the University of Texas has linked diet soda consumption greater abdominal obesity, which may put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers examined about 750 older adults living near San Antonio, Texas. They took measurements on height, weight and waist circumference, and asked questions on how often participants drank different types of soft drinks. Nearly ten years later, they followed up with participants to see how much their waistlines grew. Compared with people who abstained from diet soda, people who occasionally drank diet soda had a 228% greater increase in waist size, and those who drank diet soda daily saw a whopping 395% greater increase in waist size. By contrast, drinking regular soda was in no way related to increase in waistline.
Having a bigger waistline has bigger consequences than just pants size alone. Abdominal obesity is linked to several adverse health conditions, including heart disease, COPD, and restless leg syndrome and having greater abdominal fat typically means having greater visceral fat—the dangerous, deep fat that surrounds your organs—especially in older adults.
Diet soda is not just a threat to the aging population. Research out of the University of Michigan has uncovered a possible reason that drinking diet soda leads to fat gain. Scientists deprived fruit flies of food for several hours and then gave them a choice between real and artificial (like those used in diet sodas) sugars. When flies tasted the real deal, neurons released a digestion-fueling hormone in the gut and brain. Artificial sugars did not have this effect, explaining why drinking diet soda may leave you unsatisfied and craving more food.
Regular soda has its dangers too. Excess sugar from sweetened beverages can lead to weight gain, and the phosphorus in soda has been linked to increased risk of death from all causes. A 2015 study published in BMJ found that a serving of sugary soda every day for a decade was linked to an 18% increase in risk of type 2 diabetes, even in people of normal weight. Research also shows drinking lots of soda can lead to potassium depletion, which can increase risk of hypertension, kidney stones, osteoporosis, stroke and muscle loss.
When it comes to quenching thirst, H2O is the way to go. Add flavor with fresh fruits and vegetables: Berries, citrus fruits, cucumbers and watermelon all make tasty additions to water. Herbs like mint or basil can also add unique flavor. If it’s the caffeine kick you crave, coffee and tea are your best options, as both have been linked to several health benefits. Check out our Smoothies and Drinks board on Pinterest for other sweet alternatives.
Published September 1, 2015