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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Drinking diet soda pop: helpful or harmful?   (July 24, 2007)

A new report, published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, implies that drinking diet soda pop is just as likely to provoke the metabolic syndrome as drinking sugar-laden non-diet soda pop. Quoting the lead author:

"We were struck by the fact that it didn't matter whether it was a diet or regular soda that participants consumed, the association with increased risk was present... In those who drink one or more soft drinks daily, there was an association of an increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome."

This just doesn't make sense to me. And apparently it didn't to the authors, who proposed that there might be several mechanisms that could explain the higher risk of metabolic abnormalities associated with greater consumption of soft drinks: "These can be broadly grouped under physiological effects, dietary behavior, and the economics of food choice." They expanded on these proposals, but, to tell the truth, none of their discussions were very satisfactory. And the authors have called for further studies to replicate the results and to understand the mechanisms driving this association before recommendations can be made.

The concern that people without diabetes might be at higher risk for the metabolic syndrome, and subsequent diabetes, is raised by this study, but is unconvincing.

What about people with diabetes: is it wise for people with diabetes to drink diet soda pop? Sure, compared to drinking sugar-laden soda pop: diet soda pop won't raise your blood sugar. So, if you have diabetes, and have been using diet soda pop, I see no reason based on the results from this study to change your behavior.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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