A very interesting story was reported recently by WebMD.com. A report was made at the annual scientific session of the American Diabetic Association (www.diabetic.org) by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, of the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine in San Antonio, Texas.
Fowler collected data on over 1,500 people aged 25 to 64 over nearly an eight-year period. At the beginning of the study, 622 people were of normal weight. Over the course of the study, roughly one-third of them became overweight or obese. A correlation was found between increased soda consumption and the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
This in itself is not surprising to most people. What is surprising, however, is that there is a greater risk among diet soda drinkers than among regular soda drinkers. Here are the numbers:
The risk of becoming overweight or obese for regular soft-drink consumers:
26% for up to 1/2 can each day
30.4% for 1/2 to one can each day
32.8% for 1 to 2 cans each day
47.2% for more than 2 cans each day.
The risk of becoming overweight or obese for diet soft-drink drinkers:
36.5% for up to 1/2 can each day
37.5% for 1/2 to one can each day
54.5% for 1 to 2 cans each day
57.1% for more than 2 cans each day.
For diet soda consumers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese increased by 41% for each can of diet soda consumed in a day. With that said, there is a saying among statisticians that goes like this: "Correlation does not mean causation."
What this means is that simply finding a statistically significant correlation between A and B does not mean that A causes B. It could very well be that similar lifestyle choices or decision-making patterns among diet soda consumers are creating similar weight-gain circumstances.
If you are old enough to recall the late '80's or early '90's, you may remember when a correlation was discovered between oat bran consumption and lower cholesterol. Once the relationship hit the press, it was several years before it could be reported that consuming oat bran could actually help to lower cholesterol in the blood.
The original assumption was that those consumers who were "likely" to consume foods containing oat bran would also be more likely to live a lifestyle that would result in lower blood cholesterol.
A similar phenomenon could be taking place with the diet soda metric as well -- but then, maybe not. Recalling a scene from Alice In Wonderland where Alice is offered tea and then offended because she is given none, Fowler posits that the body may be baited into thinking that a high calorie beverage is being consumed (because of the sweetness of the diet soda) only to find none. In support of this idea, Fowler mentions a recent study in which rats fed artificial sweetener craved calories to a greater degree than their sugar-fed bretheren.
So what is a diet soda drinker to do? Well, the simplest thing to do is to stop drinking diet soda. In fact, stop drinking soda altogether. The next thing to do is to contemplate your lifestyle. Consider your caloric intake and whether you tend to justify consuming things you should leave alone. Are you active enough to burn the calories you consume? Do you tend to purchase and consume "low-calorie" or "diet" foods and beverages?
Research that provides results that cause us to ponder our own lifestyles is invaluable. Creatures of habit, as we are, need to have our world rocked occasionally.
Until more information is available, grab yourself a nice cold glass of water and think about whether you will be one of the 41% in the next seven or eight years.
References: WebMD.com (http://my.webmd.com/content/article/107/108476.htm by Daniel DeNoon, WebMD Medical News)
Michael Callen is the author of the Weekly Weightloss Tips Newsletter (http://www.ccwebgroup.com/tips) and the Chief Technology Officer for http://www.WellnessPartners.com, an online retailer of dozens of health and wellness products such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), and Green Tea Extract.