The soda industry has taken a few hits over the past couple of years. Childhood obesity and fear of high fructose corn syrup has meant steep declines in sales. But we’re finding that diet soda may not be much better because it contains artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to health problems, namely cancer. And most recently, diet soda took another hit, this time because new research shows that it could increase waistlines as you age.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, linked diet soda to increasing belly fat. The more diet soda consumed, the bigger the gut. Researchers followed 700 participants over 65 years of age for between 8 and 12 years, depending on when they entered the study. Most were in the study for an average of 9 years. The waistlines of those that drank diet soda daily was 3 inches bigger by the end of the study.
“We’re being naive if we only look at the number of calories in the label. People may be sabotaging their own health if they use diet sodas to protect themselves from gaining weight,” study author Sharon Fowler, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio said to CBS News.
The study did not prove causation, meaning they did not find that the soda actually caused the weight gain. It could be that participants switched from regular soda to diet but didn’t change anything else about their diet or people could be using diet soda as an excuse to indulge on fatty and sugary foods.
The American Beverage Association said in a statement, reported by CBS News: “It’s important to recognize that this observational study looked at an aging population — those over 65 at the beginning of the study, who are already at risk of weight gain and cardiovascular disease — and then made conclusions based on associations. However, many trying to lose or control their weight look for ways to reduce calories, including with their beverage choices.”
Another study last year linked diet soda to heart attacks. People in the study that drank diet soda were 43 percent more likely to suffer a stroke or a heart attack than those that didn’t drink soda.
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