For millions of American women, drinking diet soda daily is akin to breathing ... something they just do without thinking about it. Most of them don't want to take in the extra 150 or so calories in a can of regular soda and figure getting the calorie-free option is much healthier.
But, recent studies have shown that diet soda can actually cause one to gain weight, and that it could be harmful to one's health in other ways too.
Two studies presented together in June 2011 at the meeting of the American Diabetes Association gave credence to the idea that diet sodas are actually causing weight gain.
One long-term study followed nearly 500 older (between 65 and 74 years old) diet soda drinkers. Over the 10 year period of the study, they found the diet soda drinkers' waists expanded by 70 percent more then non-drinkers. And for those who drank more than two diet sodas a day, they were five times as likely to gain weight than non-drinkers.
The health risks from having an increased waist circumference could be severe. Larger waists leave one more vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and other chronic life-threatening conditions.
The other study presented at that meeting hinted at the reasoning behind diet soda contributing to weight gain. This study was done on mice and looked at their reactions to aspartame-laced food and food that did not have the artificial, no-calorie sweetener in it. The mice who ate the food with aspartame in it had higher blood sugar levels then the mice who ate regular food.
Researchers said these findings could explain why people who drink diet sodas have their appetite triggered by having higher blood sugar levels. They don't feel full. These people are obviously more vulnerable to taking in more calories because they feel hungry.
The good news for diet soda drinkers everywhere is that not all the research shows diet soda is bad for you. A six month study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2012 report found that people who switched sugary drinks with diet drinks lost weight.