diet sodaWith thanks to Mercola.com, Reuters, CBS News and Circulation 2008;117:754-761:

Drinking diet soda increases the risk of metabolic syndrome.

The study found that diet soda consumption was linked to these elevated risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, echoing the findings of a study published in July.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around your waist, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure, all of which can raise your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers examined the diets of over 9,500 people between the ages of 45 and 64. They were categorized into two groups: a “western-pattern diet” that included processed meat, fried foods and red meat, or a “prudent-pattern diet” that included more fruits and vegetables, poultry and fish.

Eating two or more servings a day of red meat increases your risk of metabolic syndrome by 25 percent, compared to those who have two servings of red meat each week, a new study found.

When we found that diet soda promoted risk we were surprised,” said Dr. Lyn Steffen, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota.

“But then we thought about other behavior patterns,” she added in a telephone interview. “It may be associated with compensating for eating higher calorie food. People may say, ‘I can eat this cookie because I am drinking this diet soda.'”

Lots of meat, fried foods and diet soda add up to heart disease, the researchers said, and the conclusions add to a swelling body of evidence linking fast food with unhealthy lifestyles.

Steffen’s team examined the diets of 9,514 people in a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. In a departure from related studies, this one went into a detailed look at precisely what people were eating.

Most were aged 45 to 64. Based on a 66-item food frequency questionnaire, the volunteers were categorized into two groups: those with a “western-pattern” diet, heavy on processed meat, fried foods, red meat; and a “prudent-pattern” diet with more fruit and vegetables, with small amounts of fish and poultry.

After nine years, nearly 40 percent of those involved developed three or more of the factors linked to metabolic syndrome, they wrote. This was clear even when smoking and exercise were factored in.

Circulation 2008;117:754-761

See also CBS News 23.2.08: Diet Soda Drinkers Gain Weight

People who drink diet soft drinks don’t lose weight. In fact, they gain weight, a new study shows. The findings come from eight years of data collected by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio.

Fowler reported the data at this week’s annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.

“What didn’t surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity,” Fowler tells WebMD. “What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher.”

In fact, when the researchers took a closer look at their data, they found that nearly all the obesity risk from soft drinks came from diet sodas.

“There was a 41 percent increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day,” Fowler says.

Fowler’s team looked at seven to eight years of data on 1,550 Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white Americans aged 25 to 64. Of the 622 study participants who were of normal weight at the beginning of the study, about a third became overweight or obese.
For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

* 26 percent for up to 1/2 can each day
* 30.4 percent for 1/2 to one can each day
* 32.8 percent for 1 to 2 cans each day
* 47.2 percent for more than 2 cans each day.

For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

* 36.5 percent for up to 1/2 can each day
* 37.5 percent for 1/2 to one can each day
* 54.5 percent for 1 to 2 cans each day
* 57.1 percent for more than 2 cans each day.

For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up 41 percent.

Fowler is quick to note that a study of this kind does not prove that diet soda causes obesity. More likely, she says, it shows that something linked to diet soda drinking is also linked to obesity.

“One possible part of the explanation is that people who see they are beginning to gain weight may be more likely to switch from regular to diet soda,” Fowler suggests. “But despite their switching, their weight may continue to grow for other reasons. So diet soft-drink use is a marker for overweight and obesity.”

Why? Nutrition expert Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, puts it in a nutshell.

“You have to look at what’s on your plate, not just what’s in your glass,” Bonci tells WebMD.

People often mistake diet drinks for diets, says Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and nutrition consultant to college and professional sports teams and to the Pittsburgh Ballet.

“A lot of people say, ‘I am drinking a diet soft drink because that is better for me. But soft drinks by themselves are not the root of America’s obesity problem,” she says. “You can’t go into a fast-food restaurant and say, ‘Oh, it’s OK because I had diet soda.’ If you don’t do anything else but switch to a diet soft drink, you are not going to lose weight.” continue reading: