Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Diet Soda Obesity Link?

We've long had our suspicions about so-called "diet soda." Put aside the issue of whether massive amounts of some kind of artificial sweetener are really good for you. It just seems that the more diet soda Americans drink, the fatter they get.

When the Curmudgeon was a kid, the only diet sodas out there were specialty drinks like Tab and Fresca. Back then, folks were still reasonably thin. Then, along came Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi and diet everything else. In larger, and larger, and larger sizes.

Now comes a new report from the widely respected Framingham Study, finding that diet soda drinkers are more likely than non-soda drinkers to have "metabolic sydrome," be obese, have high blood sugar and have high blood pressure.

Now, we'd be the first to tell you that association does not mean causation. Indeed, the authors of the report were not willing to say that their data supports a claim that drinking diet soda causes obesity. Some critics of the study--many funded by the soft drink industry--are quick to point out that it may well be that people who are more unhealthy to begin with are more likely to have switched to diet soda.

Perhaps. But maybe diet soda isn't so benign after all. We can say this for sure: water would be better. (And no, we don't endorse substituting "all natural" juice, or some kind of organic drink as "more healthy"--those have tons of empty calories.)

One problem with diet drinks is that their sweet taste encourages simply drinking too much liquid. You'll see folks--often quite large ones--downing 24 oz., 36 oz., and, gracious me, 64 oz. "diet" drinks at your local fast food joint or "convenience" store, but you won't see anyone drinking that much water in a similar setting. Some scientists theorize that while the diet soda has no calories, drinking all that sweet tasting carbonated beverage leads one to crave more of other sweet foods. We think there could be merit to that.

Of course, drinking the occasional 12 oz. diet soda--everything in moderation we say--isn't going to hurt you. (Nor will drinking sugared soda in moderation hurt you, either.) But we would counsel against drinking anything--whether "diet" or not--in massive quantities. We'd sure like to see the return of the 12 oz. soda as the norm--a "regular" drink--at fast food restaurants.

1 comment:

Johnny Camacho said...

If my Diet Coke obsession kills me, I shall at least die a content man.