In our culture, diet sodas have been used for years as a guilt-free replacement for calorie and sugar-laden sodas and other sweet beverages that are known to have deleterious health effects. The school of thought has been that consuming beverages without sugar would prevent the increasing weight, waistline, blood sugar, and heart disease risk that is associated with drinking sweet beverages like soda, juice, lemonade, sweet tea, and even some of those “sports” and “vitamin” drinks. While it is my belief that choosing diet beverages and using sugar substitutes in moderation can be a part of a healthy lifestyle, there is nothing better and more pure than the original thing – H2O.
New research coming out of The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging showed that over a 9.5-year period, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference than those who did not drink diet sodas. Furthermore, people who consumed two or more diet sodas per day had waist circumferences that increased 500% more than non diet soda drinkers!! This is pretty alarming, since it is widely known that waist circumference is associated with chronic conditions and diseases such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Another study published in 2009 showed that “consumption of diet soda at least daily was associated with significantly greater risks of select incident metabolic syndrome components and type 2 diabetes”. In addition, research is also starting to show links between consumption of artificial sweeteners and increased blood sugar and diabetes risk.
Much of the research is showing an association between diet soda drinkers and the negative outcomes listed above, but not necessarily causality. I can’t help but wonder if diet soda drinkers have more abdominal fat and more risk factors for chronic disease because of their overall lifestyle, and not just the fact that they drink diet soda. Often times, those who are diet soda drinkers will make poor food choices and believe that choosing diet soda lessens the damage. An example of this is the person who goes to McDonald’s and orders a Big Mac, french fries, and a diet soda. Do regular diet soda drinkers use the soda for caffeine because they are generally lethargic, and have an inactive lifestyle? In my experience, water drinkers make healthier food choices and exercise more on the whole – they take better care of their bodies. What do you think??
Next time you think about choosing a diet soda or artificially sweetened beverage, try one of the following instead:
- Water (Tip: If you don’t like plain water, keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator with some cut up orange, lemon, lime, or cucumber slices. This will give the water some flavor and make it extra refreshing!)
- Unsweetened iced tea or hot tea
- Flavored seltzer or club soda
- Hint Water (naturally sweetened water in various flavors)
What other natural, sugar-free, beverages do you recommend??