A new study shows that drinking diet soda is directly linked to abdominal obesity in adults 65 years of age and older.
The findings published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, raise concerns about the safety of chronic diet soda consumption, which may increase belly fat and contribute to greater risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.
In an effort to combat obesity, many adults try to reduce sugar intake by turning to nonnutritive or artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose. Previous research shows that in the past 30 years, artificial sweeteners and diet soda intake have increased, yet the prevalence of obesity has also seen a dramatic increase in the same time period. Many of these studies have focused on middle-aged and younger adults.
“Our study seeks to fill the age gap by exploring the adverse health effects of diet soda intake in individuals 65 years of age and older, ” explains lead author Sharon Fowler, MPH, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “The burden of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, along with healthcare costs, is great in the ever-increasing senior population.”
749 adults over the age of 65
Researchers from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging looked at data from 749 adults over the age of 65 . They found that, over the course of almost 9-10 years, those who drank diet soda daily saw the growth of their waist circumferences more than double that of non-diet soda drinkers.
Diet soda drinkers’ waist circumferences expanded 2.11 centimeters over the 9.4-year period, while non-diet soda drinkers’ waists only expanded 0.77 centimeters. Those who occasionally drank diet soda saw a 1.83 centimeter growth in weight circumference.
Surprisingly, the researchers didn’t find any consistent relationship between drinking regular soda and waist circumference.
“The study shows that increasing diet soda intake was associated with escalating abdominal obesity, which may increase cardiometabolic risk in older adults, ” Fowler concludes. The authors recommend that older individuals who drink diet soda daily, particularly those at high cardiometabolic risk, should try to curb their consumption of artificially sweetened drinks.
The study doesn’t determine cause and effect, it only indicates a possible association between diet soda and weight gain.
Rather than deciphering the merits of diet versus regular soda, the suggestion is to forego both. Instead, try drinking unsweetened beverages like coffee, tea, 100 percent fruit juice or maybe just plain water.