People who drink diet sodas gain almost three times as much abdominal fat as those who don’t. That’s the conclusion of a recent study reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers, based in San Antonio Texas, followed 749 people ages 65 and older for nine years, tracking their record of drinking sodas over that time period.
Those who drank diet sodas daily gained over three inches of abdominal fat. Those who drank no diet sodas gained 0.8 inches. People who occasionally drank diet sodas fell in between the diet soda drinkers and those who didn’t touch diet drinks. The in-between group gained an average of 1.8 inches around the waist.
This new study adds to the growing evidence that diet drinks are associated with unintended weight gain, just the opposite of what most diet-drinkers want. Why this occurs is not yet entirely clear.
Most diet sweeteners are sweeter than sugar, but research suggests that they may not satisfy internal cravings. One theory is that diet-drinkers consume other extra calories to satisfy this internal drive. These extra calories add up to more weight gain.
The gain in abdominal inches is cause for special concern because more mid-abdominal fat is linked to greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic problems. Instead of helping to control health issues, diet drinks seem to contribute to more risk of health problems. It’s best to quit them, but that’s not easy for the long-time drinker.
The Diet Soda Dilemma
So what should a person who is fond of diet sodas do? It’s a major dilemma because diet sodas are quasi-addictive. Yet the mounting evidence that diet drinks are not good for long-term health calls for action.
One solution is to quit them “cold turkey.” Another is to taper off of them over a period of a few weeks. In either case, it’s not a good idea to switch to regular sodas. That would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
My suggestion is to drink cold water sparked with a twist of lemon. The tartness of lemon may paradoxically make it easier to come off sweet drinks, and the water provides the kind of liquid the body truly needs and craves.
Our bodies are about 65 percent water. When you drink anything else, the body must discard all other undesirable chemicals in order to get the water it really needs to function well. You save your body a great deal of trouble by simply drinking water in the first place!
Update on Walter
Thanks for your good response to Walter’s problem in my February newsletter. A total of $545.00 was given for Walter’s future education. This is being kept in a dedicated fund within the Foundation for Healthy Africa, and it will be a big help to him. Anyone who wishes to contribute to this effort may donate to this Foundation at any time. Visit the Foundation for Healthy Africa website to donate and learn more about it. It supports educational and other projects directed toward improving health in Africa. Thank you!!!
Ed Dodge, MD, MPH
This post was published first in Dr. Ed Dodge’s Wellness Newsletter, Volume VII, No. 4 • April 17, 2015.