Researchers behind a new study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found that those who drank diet soda gained almost three times as much abdominal fat over the course of nine years as those who didn’t drink diet soda.
The study examined data from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging on 749 adults over the age of 65. The data indicated that the waist circumference of diet soda drinkers expanded 2.11 centimeters over the course of the 9.4-year period, whereas those who didn’t drink the beverage only saw a 0.77 centimeter increase in their waist size.
Large waist circumference has been previously linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, coronary heart disease, albuminuria and even death as a result of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the study’s senior author, was quoted in a TIME report as having said that “regular sugar has caloric consequences” and that the human “body is used to knowing that a sweet taste means you are ingesting energy in the form of calories that, if you don’t burn them off,” are going to convert to fat.
Regular sugar has caloric consequences […] Your body is used to knowing that a sweet taste means you are ingesting energy in the form of calories that, if you don’t burn them off,” are going to convert to fat.
As artificial sweeteners confuse the human body and weaken the connection in in the brain between calories and sweetness, Hazuda explains that this can lead to cravings for sweeter and sweeter treats as well as weight gain.
The study’s co-author Sharon P.G. Fowler of the University of Texas was quoted by the Huffington Post as having said that the notion of diet sodas being “healthier” is faulty logic derived from the fact that many people drink more diet than regular soda because the calories don’t add up, however, the reason for the waist gain accompanying its consumption is potentially traceable to phosphoric acid; an ingredient which both variants contain a similar amount of, as exhibited in their comparable acidity levels.
Dr. Hazuda concluded that those who “think they’re doing something good by drinking artificially sweetened beverages” are actually being “totally counterproductive.”
People who are already at cardiometabolic risk because they have higher BMIs are really in double or triple jeopardy […] When they think they’re doing something good by drinking artificially sweetened beverages, it’s actually totally counterproductive.
The Calorie Control Council pointed out that the study only indicates a possible association between diet soda and weight gain, as it’s unable to determine cause and effect.
In an unrelated study, researchers found a link between daily sleep loss and weight gain which indicated that as little as 30-minutes of sleep lost per day throughout the week could have long-term consequences for the body’s metabolism and weight.