Presumably, the entire rationale for creating diet soft drinks is that they are better for weight loss diets than regular soft drinks; hence, the name. But new research seems to discredit this rational and remove the justification for marketing diet soft drinks. . . .

Researchers followed 749 people over the age of 65 for 9.4 years. To their surprise, they found that the ones who drank a daily diet soft drink added around 3.04cm to their waist circumference while occassional drinkers added only 1.76cm and people who never drank diet soft drinks added only .77cm. People who drank drinks with added sugars added none.

The researchers called these results "striking". The inches added to their waistlines was dose dependent and significant.

This study may not be the final word, though. There may be other reasons why the diet soft drink drinkers added more inches to their wastes. It may be, for example, that people who are already struggling with weight gain are more likely to choose diet soft drinks. The researchers, however, did control for some weight gain factors, like physical activity and diabetes (Journal of the American Geriatric Society 2015;doi:10.1111/jgs.13376).

Though this suggestive study, taken on its own, may not be definitive, it is not on its own. Several recent studies have pointed to the disturbing possibility that diet soft drinks may just be a marketing strategy to keep people who know soft drinks are bad for them drinking soft drinks.

Another reason for choosing diet soft drinks is that people think they are better for managing blood sugar. But a recent study has found that drinking commonly used artificial sweeteners leads to the development of glucose intolerance, possibly by negatively affecting intestinal bacteria. That means that artificial sweeteners, instead of helping to prevent diabetes, may actually promote it by leading to the development of glucose intolerance in healthy people (Nature 2014;doi:10.1038/nature13793).

And when researchers discovered that drinking 2 or more colas a day doubled the risk of chronic kidney disease, they also discovered that it made no difference if the soft drink was regularly or artifically sweetened (Epidemiology 2007;18:501-6).

It is well known that soft drinks cause osteoporosis. What is less well known is that research that found that women who drink soft drinks on a daily basis have significantly lower bone mineral density also found that the results were no better for women who chose diet soft drinks (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:936-42).

Research has also demonstrated that people who drink diet soft drinks on a daily basis have a significant 43% greater risk of a cardiovascular event, like stroke or heart attack. Strangely, this study found the risk only for diet soft drinks: there was no association between regular soft drinks and cardiovasculare events (Journal of General Internal Medicine 2012;doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2). A second study, though, found the increased risk for both. This massive study found that drinking one or more soft drinks a day--whether they were sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners--increased the risk of stroke by a significant 16% (Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:1190-99).

So, maybe diet soft drinks really are just a marketing trick to keep making money at the expense of the health of people who are trying to be healthy.

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