Daily Soft Drinks-Even Diet-Linked to Higher Heart Disease Risk
The following report that diet drinks, similar to those containing sugar, are associated with similar risks of metabolic imbalance surprised researchers. Why do both cause abdominal weight gain when diet drinks are low to zero calories? Is it the carbonation? Does soda cause weight gain and other metabolic disturbances, or is soda consumption one of several markers of dietary excess? Future research may answer these questions.
Nutritionally speaking, the regular consumption of sugared soft drinks might promote weight gain due to the fact the average sugared soda has 10 teaspoons (160 calories) per 12 oz. This might be a concern especially when taken on an empty stomach or with a low fiber carbohydrate like chips because carbohydrate calories can be absorbed more rapidly in the absence of protein or fats,. This might cause the absorption of too many calories too fast, with the excess being converted to fat and stored. The rapid clearing of blood glucose could also lead to earlier hunger leading to excess calorie consumption and corresponding weight gain.
In the case of diet sodas sweetened with aspartame (NutraSweet) or sucralose (Splenda), these products may pose a toxicity to some individuals which might include intestinal irritation, inflammation and leaky gut syndrome where nutrients can passively and rapidly enter the blood. This might also allow too many calories in the blood at once with the excess being converted to fat and stored.
Until these concerns are better understood, it might be best to decrease regular consumption of soda drinks, and choose all natural fruit drinks as a natural alternative.
John W. Cartmell, MS
Daily soft drinks - even diet - linked to higher heart disease risk
By Sheryl Ubelacker
July 23, 2007
TORONTO (CP) - For those who drink diet pops in the belief that sugar-free beverages are healthier than regular soft drinks, new research suggests they should think again.
A huge U.S. study of middle-aged adults has found that drinking more than one soft drink a day - even a sugar-free diet brand - may be associated with an elevated risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of factors that boosts the chance of having a heart attack or stroke and developing diabetes.
"We found that one or more sodas per day increases your risk of new-onset metabolic syndrome by about 45 per cent, and it did not seem to matter if it was regular or diet," Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, senior investigator for the Framingham Heart Study, said Monday from Boston.
"That for me is striking."
Metabolic syndrome is associated with five specific health indicators: excess abdominal fat; high blood sugar; high triglycerides; low levels of the good cholesterol HDL; and high blood pressure.
"And other than high blood pressure, the other four . . . all were associated with drinking one or more sodas per day," said Vasan, a professor of medicine at Boston University.
Having metabolic syndrome is known to double the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as boosting the risk of diabetes.
The study included nearly 9,000 observations of middle-aged men and women over four years at three different times. The study looked at how many 355-millilitre cans of cola or other soft drinks a participant consumed each day.
Compared to those who drank less than one can per day, the researchers found that subjects who downed one or more soft drinks daily had:
-31 per cent greater risk of becoming obese (with a body mass index of 30 or more).
-30 per cent increased risk of adding on belly fat.
-25 per cent higher risk of developing high blood triglycerides or high blood sugar.
-32 per cent higher risk of having low HDL levels.
But Vasan and his colleagues, whose study was published Monday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, are unsure what it is about soft drinks that ratchets up the risk of metabolic syndrome.
"We really don't know," he said. "This soda consumption may be a marker for a particular dietary pattern or lifestyle. Individuals who drink one or more sodas per day tend to be people who have greater caloric intake. They tend to have more of saturated fats and trans fats in their diet, they tend to be more sedentary, they seem to have lower consumption of fibre."
"And we tried to adjust for all of these in our analysis . . . but it's very difficult to completely adjust away lifestyle."
Dr. David Jenkins, director of the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said previous studies have suggested that diet pops did not have the same effects on weight and health as do naturally sweetened soft drinks.
"The unusual thing that needs comment is (say study authors) that diet colas are the same as the calorically sweetened colas," said Jenkins. "So I think that is the piece that they've put into this puzzle . . . I think we need a lot more scrutiny of that."
Jenkins said he believes that high consumption of soft drinks likely goes along with eating a high-calorie diet.
"I think the disappointing thing is if you thought you were doing (yourself) a major service - which you always used to think - by taking diet drinks, this is not helping you," he said. "Before we were saying take the diet (drink) and you're OK. Now were saying: 'Watch it."'
The study also begs the question whether there is some ingredient in soft drinks - regular or diet - that may encourage metabolic syndrome.
But Dr. Arya Sharma, chair of cardiovascular obesity research at McMaster University, said there is nothing suggested by the authors of the study that would lead to that conclusion.
"One thing that they say and other people have said before is if you drink a lot of sweet things, then you are sort of conditioning yourself for that sweet taste," Sharma said Monday from Hamilton. "So people who drink diet pop may be eating other sweets, whether that comes in the form of dessert or other things, I don't know."
"It may be that people who are drinking diet pop - and we have this effect often with people who go on diets or when people go running or whatever - that you do a little bit of something that you think is good, and then you can do more of something that is bad."
"The idea could be because I'm drinking diet pap, I can afford to splurge on dessert."
Vasan said he cannot out-and-out recommend that people stop drinking soft drinks based on this study, because the findings are based on association, not clear cause and effect.
"The simple message is eat healthy, exercise regularly and everything should be done in moderation," he said. "If you're a regular soda drinker you should be aware that this study suggests that regular soda consumption may be associated with health consequences."
"If you're a diet soda drinker, stay tuned for additional research to confirm or refute these findings."
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