In a recent study, scientists found subjects who consumed “diet” soft drinks were at an an increased risk of developing type II diabetes than subjects who drank “normal” sweetened soft drinks.
“People paradoxically think that, as long as they are taking calorie-free soda, they should be OK,” said Ajanji. “Anecdotal evidence and research reports have, however, shown that people who drink lots of diet soda tend to gain more weight and develop diabetes quicker and more readily than those who drink regular soda or unsweetened freshly squeezed juices.
“Why is this so? The scientific basis is not quite clear but there are some suggestions:
- Since these diet drinks are believed to contain essentially no calories, people tend to drink a lot more, volume wise, than is usually the case with regular soda or freshly squeezed fruit juices.
- When regular soda containing sucrose or fructose is taken, it has a better and quicker satiating effect on the brain and body. Conversely, when diet soda is taken, there is no immediate ‘sugar fix’, and so individuals are programmed to take a lot more solid food to compensate. This invariably translates to weight gain in the short- and long-term.
- The sugar substitutes in diet soda – such as saccharin and aspartame – may have effects on the processing and utilization of insulin, the sugar hormone, in the body. The resulting changes initiate a series of metabolic events within the body that may promote weight gain and development of diabetes.
- It is likely that weight gain, as a result of the above factors, predisposes people to the development of diabetes, particularly in those genetically predisposed.
The public health message therefore is for temperance in all things sweet, including consumption of soda, diet or otherwise. Consumption of whole foods, unsweetened fresh juices/water, and foods high in fiber and low in saturated fats is the best advice for weight reduction and prevention of diabetes.