By Robert GobbleJuly 18, 2013
It may be calorie-free, but diet soda is linked to diabetes and other health problems, research has found.
If you're fueling up on french fries and spending a lot of time parked on the couch, don't expect your diet soda to save you.
Downing calorie-free pop could have the unappetizing consequence of increasing your risk of developing diabetes, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Here is what we know: Researchers looked at people's diet soda consumption between the years 2000 and 2002, and then screened them for type 2 diabetes between 2002 and 2007, an investigation involving more than 6,800 people between 45- and 84-years-old.
People who drank at least one diet soda a day at the beginning of the study had a 67 percent higher relative risk of type 2 diabetes compared with the people who drank none.
Zero-calorie soda also increased several risk factors linked to obesity. In turn, obesity increased your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke -- by 36 percent
WHAT IT MEANS:
Sipping diet soda to avoid calories sounds like a good idea, but in the real world it tends to come along with other behaviors that may endanger health.
This study didn't look at the possible cause between the association of diabetes and diet soda, but the lead author has a pretty good idea why this happens.
Researchers believe that persons drinking diet soda are likely consuming other foods that elevate risk of obesity, diabetes, and stroke.
People drinking diet soda are likely to miscalculate the amount of caloric savings, thus over-consuming other foods, resulting in greater overall energy consumption.
Aspartame is a common chemical sweetener used in diet soda and other low-cal or low-sugar products, but some people report headaches or generally feeling unwell after ingesting anything containing the chemical.
To make life easier for everyone, this is one instance where you may want to follow the "better safe than sorry" principle.
Aspartame is used in many diet sodas, and studies have found drinking diet soda may increase your risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Also of concern with aspartame, researchers have found that one harmful breakdown product of aspartame is formaldehyde.
Here's how to avoid health problems that come in a calorie-free can:
• Water yourself! Hands down, the best thing you can drink is water. Water should be your drink of choice. Beyond that, check the Beverage Guidance Panel to help you make the healthiest choices.
• Look at the whole picture. If diabetes is a real threat to you, chances are your entire problem isn't coming from a soda can or bottle, but rather a slew of factors. To keep your blood sugar steady, eat a balanced diet with as little refined sugar as possible (replace processed foods with whole, organic vegetables and fruits), cut out soda and sweetened juices containing little real fruit juice, and get more active, even if that means walking in 10-minute spurts several times a day.
Make lots of small changes you can stick to, rather than a single dramatic one.
Lifestyle changes must be moderate and sustainable, and focus on all aspects of diet -- not just single food and beverage entities -- and include physical activity and stress management.
Too many marketing gimmicks exist that suggest there is a single cure to prevent obesity and its related morbidities. This simply isn't the case.
The following article on the dangers of diet soda is by Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness director. It is the latest in an occasional series of his health-and-fitness articles appearing in the Area I section of the Morning Calm weekly newspaper, with the aim of helping foster good health practices within our community.