Food for thought, Healthy Lifestyle

Diet Soda

Why Diet Soda Could Be Your “Un-healthy” Label

By the National Wellness Institute, April 2012

While evidence is clear that sugary sodas are causing waistlines to increase in addition to other health issues, what do we really know about diet sodas? Are they good or bad for you? The jury is still out, but a new study sheds light on the impact that zero-calorie drinks may have. Previous studies have linked diet soda consumption as a cause of cardiovascular disease. However, others have suggested such drinks may be a viable tactic for people who are trying to lose or control their weight. The past research generally focused on individuals’ consumption patterns or their overall dietary habits, but failed to distinguish how those two aspects interact to affect people’s health.

To address this problem, a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined not only people’s beverage consumption patterns but also the diets of those who consume diet and sugar-sweetened beverages. Researchers studied data collected over 20 years from more than 4,000 young adults who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. In terms of eating habits, participants fell into two groups: people who ate what researchers dubbed a “prudent” diet (one with more fruit, fish, whole grains, nuts, and milk) and individuals who consumed a “western” diet (which had higher amounts of fast food, meat and poultry, pizza, and snacks. The findings appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The results? Similar to previous studies, the new analysis found that people who consume diet beverages tend to be less healthy than people who do not consume them. People who were healthiest tended to be those who ate a prudent diet and did not consume diet beverages. They had a lower risk of high waist circumference, high triglyceride levels and metabolic syndrome (22 percent, 28 percent, and 36 percent lower, respectively, than people who ate a western diet and did not drink diet beverages. But the second healthiest group was individuals with a prudent diet who also consumed diet beverages. In contrast, individuals who consumed the western diet had increased risk of heart disease, regardless of whether or not they drank diet beverages. The UNC researchers found that many dietary factors contributed to a person’s overall health. Without taking diet beverage consumption into account, people who ate the prudent diet had significantly better cholesterol and triglyceride profiles and significantly lower risks of hypertension and metabolic syndrome than those who ate the western diet.

The bottom line: Drinking diet soda is not a substitute for a balanced, healthy diet. To be truly healthy, focus on the food first, add water, and if you must, drink diet soda in moderation.

Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2012, March 28). Health impact, interplay of diet soft drinks and overall dietunraveled. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from

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