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Drinking Soda and Weight Gain – Does It Matter If It’s Diet Soda?

By Expert HERWriter
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Many times women come into my office and report drinking a soda quite often during the week. Sometimes it is one soda in the afternoon for a pick-me-up, sometimes it’s several. Either way, soda leads to weight gain…and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s diet.

In 2007, the University of Minnesota published a study in Circulation of which 9,514 participants were evaluated. The researchers found that people who drank just one diet soda everyday had a 34% increased risk of metabolic syndrome. This syndrome includes abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL (good cholesterol) high LDL (bad cholesterol), elevated blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

In the Framingham Heart Study by Boston University, 6,039 participants without metabolic syndrome at the start of the study had a 44% increased risk of developing new onset metabolic syndrome with one or more soda intake per day. Specifically, they had a 31% increase in obesity risk, 30% risk of increasing abdominal waist circumference, 25% increasing risk of developing elevated blood sugar or triglycerides, and a 32% risk of low HDL on blood-work.

Finally, a study presented at the 2005 American Diabetes Association found that for each can of diet soda drank per day, the risk of obesity increases 41%. Does this mean you should switch to regular soda? Absolutely not! Those are filled with huge amounts of sugar. If you are trying to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a normal weight, please switch from soda to something that is beneficial to your body, such as water!

Add a Comment8 Comments

FYI for readers:

Dr. Carrie Jones
Name: Carrie Jones, N.D.
Naturopathic Physician


July 9, 2009 - 5:08am

"Actually, I believe it's the metabolic cascade. When something sweet touches your tongue, your body gears up for 'something sweet' to come down the pipes. Therefore all of the organs of digestion, including your pancreas are enlisted to deal with the incoming sugar."

Can I see some peer reviewed studies on this? What are the physiological mechanisms governing this process? Also, does this imply that people on feeding tubes cannot process sugars, or at least are less capable of processing sugars?

July 9, 2009 - 5:05am
EmpowHER Guest

Artificial sweeteners are even worse, Diane P. Hence the term, 'artificial' sweeteners. Synonyms for 'artificial:' fake, synthetic.

Would you rather be eating real food, or synthetic food?

Mother Nature knows best, and 'artificial sweenteners' were only legalized after their palms were greased. Google around the web and look at how bad aspartame is, and how many times it was blocked by the FDA, until DONALD RUMSFELD stepped in to grease their palms with promises of runaway revenue.

Sugary drinks are bad, and carbonated drinks actually cause dehydration.

Get off your sugar fix. You'll find, after a week or two of drinking water instead of cola, that, once you drink cola again, "it's so damn sweet!" Also, caffeine is addictive, and when people are deprived of their daily (hourly) doses, they become quite irritable.

April 30, 2009 - 6:11pm

This is truly good information for me. I'm finally understanding exactly what diet soda does in the body. Does the same metabolic cascade happen when we, for instance, sprinkle an artificial sweetener on cereal or on strawberries instead of sugar?

April 24, 2009 - 9:14am
EmpowHER Guest

So what about all the new sugar free drink mixes that we add to our water now. Is that just as bad for us? I only drink water and maybe 3 diet saods a week. What about chewing sugar free gum? Does that also interfer with the metabolic cascade?

April 23, 2009 - 11:45am
Expert HERWriter

Actually, I believe it's the metabolic cascade. When something sweet touches your tongue, your body gears up for 'something sweet' to come down the pipes. Therefore all of the organs of digestion, including your pancreas are enlisted to deal with the incoming sugar. When you drink a diet drink, insulin is released yet no glucose(sugar) is there and you are left with elevated insulin levels. This leads to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and abdominal weight gain (including more fat around the organs).

April 5, 2009 - 9:23pm

Dr. Jones, thank you for a fascinating post!

I am very interested in the "why" of the study. As far as the metabolic changes and the weight gain are concerned, do they actually come from something physiological that happens in the body because of the increased intake of soda?

Or is it that people who drink more soda were found to also eat less nutritiously, take in more calories and/or don't exercise as much?

Thanks so much in advance.

March 30, 2009 - 8:54am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Diane Porter)

I concur. A basic law of scientific research is "correlation does not equal causation." People who drink diet soda may be more likely to eat junk food than people who drink only water/juice, making them more susceptible to obesity. For instance, I drink tons of diet coke and eat a healthy diet. I am thin and in great health. I think whoever is doing this research needs to ask "why are the results correlated with the variable?" before jumping to conclusions.

March 30, 2009 - 10:28am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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