Diet Sodas and Your Health

Nov 08, 2013
Tagged with: Diet Sodas and Your Health

Let me start off by saying that I love diet sodas and I have made an educated decision to continue drinking them. I find that diet sodas and sugar substitutes fit well with my diet; however, I am aware of how much I consume and am careful not to overdo it. I also live a healthy lifestyle which helps reduce my chances of developing health conditions that may be related to drinking diet sodas. The American Heart Association came out with a study that showed that sugary drinks were linked to about 180,000 deaths around the world. That kind of data does not exist for diet drinks yet. I wanted to provide you all with the research that is out there right now on diet sodas so that you too can make an educated decision on what you choose to consume.Research is not always straight forward. You have to take into account the number of subjects used, how long the study was, if there was any bias in the study, if they controlled for confounding factors (factors that might skew the study results), and if the results that were found show causation or just a simple association. Many times research studies only show that there needs to be more research done on a specific topic. That is why the research surrounding diet soda consumption is not that clear.

So what does the research tell us? There was a study published in 2009 that looked at the diets of over 6,000 people between the ages of 45 and 84 years old. They found that there was a positive association between diet soda consumption with both incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. This means that a statistically significant amount of the participants in the study who developed metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes also consumed diet soda. This would prove a possible association or relationship between diet soda and diabetes related conditions, NOT A CAUSE. There are many dietary, lifestyle, and behavioral factors that are in play here and cannot be excluded in an observational study like this one. For example, they observed that those who drank regular sodas consumed more whole grains, fruit, and low-fat dairy products, and less processed foods, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages. This type of dietary pattern has been associated with a lowered risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Another cause of a possible false association could be from inaccuracies in food recall. Observational studies use food recalls to determine what type of food or beverage a person consumes daily. This can be full of error because many people have a hard time remembering what they previously ate or drank, or they may not want to tell the truth.

The Huffington Post wrote a great article on diet sodas back in July of 2013. In this article, they get the opinions of a few doctors and they touch on recent studies that look at the health effects of diet sodas. They talked about a study that was presented in a 2011 meeting of the American Diabetes Association that showed waist circumference was 70% greater for diet soda drinkers than non-diet soda drinkers. Also, researchers at Purdue University did a review of studies that found an association between obesity and artificially sweetened drinks. Other associations that have been found include diet soda consumption and heart attacks or strokes.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study looking at depression and how it may relate to diet soda consumption. They observed the beverage consumption of over 250,000 people between the ages of 50 and 71 years old during 1995 and 1996. Later they were asked if they had been diagnosed with depression since the year 2000. This study found that the risk appeared greater for people who drank diet sodas rather than regular sodas. I was not able to find this article but it was reviewed by U.S. News in January of 2013. In my opinion there could be many factors playing on this association that don’t have anything to do with diet sodas. I would have been able to assess this study more adequately if I could have located the original article.

So why are studies showing these types of relationships? Researchers pose three main ideas which have not yet been proven.  They think that drinking diet sodas may cause a person to crave more sweets which may lead to eating more calorie rich foods and inevitably gaining weight. Or people who drink diet sodas may overestimate the amount of calories they are saving by drinking a diet soda and therefor end up eating too many calories. And lastly, those who are overweight or obese may use diet soda as an attempt to lose weight which would increase the association between this population and diet soda consumption.

All of these studies show us that we still do not know the specific effects of diet soda consumption on our health. As a dietitian, I counsel people on how to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. I always advise my clients to consume water instead of diet sodas. However, every person is different so you need to be aware of what’s right for your body. If you drink a lot of sugary drinks a day, it might work to make half of those diet and the rest water.

 

So what are your thoughts? Now that you know the research that’s out there, does it change your opinion of diet sodas? Have you heard of any other possible associations between diet soda and your health?

 

References:

Diet Soda Linked to Depression in NIH Study. U.S. News. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/01/09/nih-study-links-soda-with-depression.

 

Nettleton J, Lutsey P, Wang Y, et al. Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)*. Diabetes Care 2009;23(4):688-694.

 

Why We’re Saying ‘No Thanks’ To Diet Soda. HuffPost Healthy Living. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/diet-soda-health-risks_n_3606906.html.

 

 

Author: Carleton Rivers