Do you love diet sodas but still want to lose belly fat? If so, drinking diet sodas may not be a good idea according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers discovered that people who drank diet soda gained nearly 3 times the belly fat over 9 years as those who did not consume diet soda (J AM Geriatr Soc 2015).
In the study, 749 individuals ages 65 and older were asked, every few years, how many cans of soda they consumed a day, and how many of those sodas were diet or regular.
The results were very predictive of abdominal-fat gain, even after the researchers adjusted for factors like smoking, levels of physical activity and diabetes. Individuals who did not drink diet soda gained approximately 0.8 in. around the waistline over the study period, but the ones who consumed diet soda every day gained 3.2 in. The people who fell between – occasional drinkers of diet soda – gained nearly 1.8 in.
This is quite shocking news to me because I always believed that diet sodas were a healthy choice for weight loss but now research shows it increases belly fat over time for women over 40 and 65. Visceral fat – the fat that surrounds the abdominal organs- is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and inflammation which make this kind of fat the most dangerous. These findings, which authors refer to as “striking,” add to the rising body of evidence that no- and low-calorie sweeteners may contain some health concerns.
“Regular sugar has caloric consequences,” says the study’s senior author Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. And one of those is that it triggers satiety – a sense of fullness or satisfaction. “Your body is use to knowing that a sweet taste means you are ingesting energy in the form of calories that, if you don’t burn them off, is going to convert to fat,” she says. Artificial sweeteners, however, confuse our bodies and weaken the link in our brains between sweetness and calories. That, Hazuda says, can lead to weight gain and cravings for sweeter and sweeter treats.
On the other hand, the Caloric Control Council, an association that represents the reduced-caloric food and beverage industry- disagreed with the study’s finding. “The use of low-calorie sweeteners in fat loss have been shown to have benefits,” the group mentioned.
Researchers found that the belly-fat gain was most common in people who were already overweight. Hazuda says when people think they’re doing something good by drinking artificially sweetened drinks, it’s “actually totally counterproductive.” For the most part, if you are seeking to lose belly fat, it would be a wise idea to reduce those diet sodas and choose a healthier diet choice such as natural fruit juice or water for fat loss.
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Source: Hazuda, H. William, K. Fowler, S. “Diet Soda Intake is Associated with Long-Term Increases in Waist Circumference in a Biethnic Cohort of Older Adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging” 17 March 2015 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society