Think twice about diet pop, researchers say
A recent Purdue University review has concluded that diet sodas may be linked to health problems similar to those linked to sugary sodas.
Scientists reviewed several studies on the effects of drinking diet soft drinks and whether they increased the likelihood that a person will overeat, gain weight and then develop other health problems. Study leaders say they do.
Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue’s Ingestive Behavior Research Center, reviewed a number of past studies. She says that consumers should be concerned about the ill effects of all sodas, not just diet soda.
“Although it seems like common sense that diet sodas would not be problematic, that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Swithers said in a statement. “Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain.”
Some physicians say it’s best to steer clear of sodas in general.
“I advise my patients to avoid sugary beverages and soft drinks and to choose water as much as possible,” says Dr. Bruce Hyman, internist on staff at Advocate Condell Medical Center. “There is simply no substitute for a healthy diet, portion control and regular exercise when it comes to weight loss.”
About 30 percent of American adults regularly consume artificially sweetened soft drinks – motivated by the thought that such drinks will help them lose weight. However, this so-called weight loss strategy could result in negative health and no shedding of pounds, study leaders said.
But the American Beverage Association says low-calorie sweeteners are a safe and effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according scientific research and food industry regulatory agencies. Use of low- and no-calorie sweeteners to help maintain a healthy weight, is supported by the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Purdue researchers say past studies have shown that diet soda drinkers experience what’s known as “cognitive distortion,” deciding that since they saved on liquid calories they can consume calories elsewhere in their diets. Swithers points out that beverages are not the only sources of artificial sweeteners and that many foods such as baked goods also contribute to this cognitive distortion theory.
Swithers recommends that consumers become more aware of their soda drinking habits in order to avoid bad health outcomes.
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