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Published: April, 2013; Vol 9, Num 11

 

Diet Soda: Worse Than Regular

The evidence is mounting. Diet soda may be even worse for you than regular soda.

In a 14-year study of more than 66,000 French women released earlier this year, researchers found that both sugar-sweetened (regular) and diet (or "light") sodas fuel obesity and diabetes, but the diet soda is unhealthier. This follows other studies that link diet soda to a variety of serious health problems

In the French study, two groups of soda drinkers (one regular, one diet) were compared to a third group that drank only 100 percent natural squeezed fruit juice and had no association with diabetes. The study revealed that the women who drank diet soda consumed more of it than those who drank regular soft drinks (respectively, 2.8 versus 1.6 glasses per week). When an equal quantity was consumed, the risk of contracting diabetes was higher for diet drinks than for regular soda: 15 percent greater with the weekly consumption of half a liter (17 ounces) and 59 percent greater for the consumption of 1.5 liters. Explaining the poorer results for diet soda, researchers speculated that diet drinkers may be more prone to excessive sugar consumption in other products or that the non-sugar sweeteners (aspartame, in particular) may spur larger increases in glycemia and insulin than does sucrose.

Last year, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked diet soda to an increased risk for metabolic syndrome (factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes). Examining two groups of 4,000 people, the study assessed the impact of diet soda consumption relative to a drinker's overall diet. One group followed a "prudent" diet more weighted to fruit, whole grains, milk, nuts and seeds. The other followed a "western" diet that included more fast food, meat, poultry, pizza and snacks. About two-thirds of both groups consumed diet soda. Over 20 years, a total of 827 study participants developed metabolic syndrome (MET). Analysis showed that "prudent" eaters had lower MET risks than "western," and on both diets, non-consumers of diet soda had lower MET risks than consumers.

Examining two groups of 4,000 people, the study assessed the impact of diet soda consumption relative to a drinker's overall diet. One group followed a "prudent" diet more weighted to fruit, whole grains, milk, nuts and seeds. The other followed a "western" diet that included more fast food, meat, poultry, pizza and snacks. About two-thirds of both groups consumed diet soda. Over 20 years, a total of 827 study participants developed metabolic syndrome (MET). Analysis showed that "prudent" eaters had lower MET risks than "western," and on both diets, non-consumers of diet soda had lower MET risks than consumers.

Diet soda consumption was also associated with increased health risks in a 2012 study of 2,564 Manhattan adults over 40. After controlling for a host of factors, daily diet soft drinkers displayed an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular death, compared to those who drank no diet soda. No increased risk was associated with regular soft drinks.

In a 2009 study by the American Diabetes Association, increases in MET and type 2 diabetes were tracked among a multi-ethnic sample of diet soda drinkers as compared to a group that drank no soda. Daily diet drinkers increased their risk of MET by 36 percent and diabetes by 67 percent.

These studies build a strong case against soda – diet as well as regular – even though additional research is necessary to explain the precise dynamics. As the mounting evidence shows, health conscious consumers have nothing to gain by switching from regular soda to diet. Better to try and eliminate both.

[Steve Clark]