Drinking Diet Soda May Add Inches to Your Waist
Monday, March 23, 2015
It’s ironic to think that the diet soda you’re drinking might actually contribute to adding inches to your waistline. But that’s exactly what researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio discovered in their new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The researchers analyzed data from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA), which examined 749 Mexican Americans and European Americans 65-years-old and older. The study began in 1992 and followed the participants for up to 12 years.
At the end of the study, older adults who were regular diet soda drinkers had waist measurement increases that were almost three times larger than people who didn’t drink diet soda. The researchers noted that the waist measurement increases were higher for men than for women. What’s more, the higher a person’s initial body mass index, the higher the waist measurement increase for those who drank diet soda. Body mass index is a ratio measurement of height and weight that indicates whether someone is overweight or obese.
A larger waistline is more than just a cosmetic problem—especially for older adults. When an older adult’s waist measurement increases, it means an increase in “visceral” fat—known popularly as “belly fat.” This is fat that accumulates deep inside the abdomen. Having more belly fat is linked to increased risks for heart disease, depression, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and even mental health problems.
The researchers expressed concern about these findings, particularly because about half the participants were Mexican Americans, the fastest-growing segment of the older U.S. population. Along with other ethnic minorities, Mexican Americans have experienced increasing levels of diabetes and deaths due to heart disease—both closely linked to the obesity epidemic.
“Health conscious older Mexican Americans might use diet soda in an attempt to lower their cardiovascular risk,” wrote the researchers in their study. “If this is the case, our results show that such behavior could put them in double jeopardy.”
Instead of artificially sweetened diet soda drinks, older adults should consider drinking unsweetened coffee and tea, mineral water unsweetened or served with a splash of 100% fruit juice, or just plain water, say the researchers. These alternative beverages provide excellent hydration and natural antioxidants with less of the risks posed by sugary or artificially-sweetened diet soft drinks. Maintaining a healthy level of physical activity is also important in old age, and can significantly improve physical and mental well-being.
This summary is from the full report titled “Diet soda intake is associated with long-term increases in waist circumference in a biethnic cohort of older adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging.” It appears online ahead of print in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The report is authored by Sharon P.G. Fowler, MPH, Ken Williams, MS, and Helen P. Hazuda, PhD.