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    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    Pseudo-Sweet Mysteries: How can this be?

    ....a recent study found that as bad as pop is for the waistline, diet pop may be even worse.

    The study by the University of Texas Health Science Center followed 1,550 Americans, aged 25 to 64, for seven to eight years. It found that the more diet soda a person drinks, the greater the chance that he or she will become overweight or obese.

    ``It didn't matter whether people were drinking diet or regular soft drinks: drinking sodas of any kind seemed to increase the risk of weight gain,'' lead author Sharon Fowler said in a press release. ``In fact, drinking diet soft drinks seemed to be much more closely related to the incidence of becoming overweight or obese.''

    On average, for each diet soda a person drank each day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.

    The study was presented at a conference, so scrutinizing the data isn't an option. The article speculates that diet soda drinkers crave sweets and give in and indulge. Could it be that artificial sweeteners somehow slow down metabolism?

    Whatever it is, these people better start exercising.

    UPDATE: A reader submits this possible explanation:

    The cause/effect here could be the opposite of what the University of Texas Health Science Center seems to think.

    It may be that people who are overweight tend to turn desperately to diet drinks more than any other segment of the population.

    Think of a 250 pound mand and a 150 pound man. Which one is more likely to decide he wants a diet drink? (They generally don't taste as good as the real thing, with the possible exception of Stewart's Diet Root beer.)

    Although, if the story's accurate, the researchers tracked weight gain over seven years, so presumably they took into account the starting weights. Or did they? There's no way to know since it isn't published.

    UPDATE: Another theory:

    A friend of mine who used to be a nutritionist told me a long time ago that diet soda was worse for a diet than regular soda. From what I remember (forgive me if I get the detailed science wrong), the claim is that the sweetness of the soda causes the body to release more insulin, reducing blood sugar levels, and making the person more hungry than normal. Since I don't drink soda, I never bother to find out how true this was other than he didn't look like he was kidding. However, now that I've written this message, I am curious how much of it is feasible.

    Not sure. I'm not familiar with the biochemistry of artificial sweeteners.

    posted by Sydney on 8/30/2005 05:27:00 PM 0 comments


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