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    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Conclusions: How about that story of diet soda and heart disease?

    People who drank more than one diet soda each day developed the same risks for heart disease as those who downed sugary regular soda, a large but inconclusive study found.

    Well, if it's large, it must be right no matter how inconclusive it is, right?

    The research comes from a massive, multi-generational heart study following residents of Framingham, Mass., a town about 25 miles west of Boston. The new study of 9,000 observations of middle-aged men and women was published Monday online in the journal Circulation.

    The researchers found those who drank more than one soda per day - diet or regular - had an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, compared to those who drank less than one soda. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that increase the risk for heart disease including large waistlines and higher levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood fats called triglycerides.

    At the start of the study, those who reported drinking more than one soft drink a day had a 48 percent increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome compared to those who drank less soda.

    Of participants who initially showed no signs of metabolic syndrome, those who drank more than one soda per day were at 44 percent higher risk of developing it four years later, they reported.

    Researchers expected the results to differ when regular soda and diet soda drinkers were compared, and were surprised when they did not, Vasan said.

    The study looked at the incidence of metabolic syndrome in those who drank one or more diet sodas a day compared to those who drank less than one a day. Metabolic syndrome was defined as the presence of any three or more of the following:

    1) A waist measurment greater or equal to 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men

    2) Fasting blood sugar greater than 100

    3) Triglycerides >150

    4) Blood pressure >135/85

    5) A "good cholesterol" (HDL) of <40 in men, or <50 in women

    Those are a lot of variables, all of which are subject to many causes. It's difficult to pin anyone of them to diet sodas, let alone all of them. But, in the end, there wasn't all that dramatic a difference between the two groups. Nineteen percent of the frequent diet soda drinkers fell into the metabolic syndrome group compared to 23% of the occasional drinkers. I have to agree with the critics. It's probably more of a lifestyle issue between soda drinkers and non-soda drinkers than it is the soda itself.

    posted by Sydney on 7/25/2007 08:08:00 AM 2 comments


    Does this mean one shouldn't drink diet sodas and instead ingest other means of caffeine? Several of my friends were talking about this as we often have diet sodas for breakfast in the morning since we don't like coffee and need something to jumpstart in the morning. I know people in theory shouldn't drink caffeine, but need something in the morning to get started. Coffee tends to be too much and leave one jittery and tea seems to be too little. A diet soda seems to work best. Is this a problem?

    By Anonymous Dara, at 12:32 PM  

    This study is just another example of correlation being confused with causation. There might be many confounding factors involved. I wouldn't give up my soda just yet.

    Here are a couple of things to think about- at any given time about 25% of people are on diets. Drinking diet soda. So, right off the bat it may be that many of the diet soda drinkers had the metabolic syndrome already.

    Furthermore, it doesn't take many calories to tip one's self into the obese range- just a few hundred calories a day over the long haul. That's a couple of Cokes. Drinking diet pop is the easiest think a person can do to lose/maintain weight. It's quite possible the diet soda drinkers might weigh more than the regular coke drinkers were it not the diet pop. That's certainly true for me.

    And finally, there's the "calorie bargaining" that people do all the time- people feel they can have higher calorie food because they have offset it with diet pop. "I'll have four steaks, french fries and a diet soda."

    Until they find a plausible biological connection, it's not worth worrying about.

    By Anonymous danie, at 5:41 PM  

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