Diet Coke

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition questions whether or not diet sodas are good or bad for health and suggests a more complicated relationship exists between consumers and the popular soft-drink segment.

The research team, led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Dr. Kiyah Duffey, collected 20-years worth of data on diet soda consumption from more than 4,000 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Of the participants, more than 800 developed metabolic syndrome — which includes excess weight around the midsection, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar and blood pressure levels — related to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Participants who ate a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains who also drank diet sodas were at a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome than participants who just ate the healthy diet without the added diet soda. But, the highest rate of risk for metabolic syndrome — 32 percent — was found in participants who drank diet soda and consumed a Standard American Diet high in processed food, meat and sugar.

While research does support diet soda as an effective long-term tool in weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight, the researchers found that overall diet choices are more important than the inclusion or exclusion of certain foods or beverages. Still, the number of negative health effects from diet sodas continues to create more questions about its safety. Other risk factors include the addition of caramel coloring that contains a known carcinogen and artificial sweeteners, which have been connected to neurological disorders, stroke, tinnitus, headaches, fertility issues and cancer.

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Image: DavidMartynHunt