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Examining how diet soft drinks impact your health

The research on how diet sodas impact your health has had mixed results. Past studies have shown artificially sweetened beverages may contribute to diabetes and that consumption could be linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But findings have also shown that switching to diet drinks can promote weight loss.

To better understand the health impact and interplay of diet soft drinks and overall diet, researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill examined not only people's beverage consumption patterns but also the eating habits of those who consume diet and sugar-sweetened beverages. In the study, which is slated to be published in the April issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers studied data collected over 20 years from more than 4,000 young adults who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Reuters reports that results showed:

... 827 study participants developed metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of risk factors for heart problems and diabetes including extra weight around the waist, unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar.

The researchers found that young adults who drank diet beverages were more likely than those who didn't to develop metabolic syndrome over the next 20 years.

But results showed that nutritional choices also may play a role:

The lowest risk of metabolic syndrome was seen among people who drank no diet beverages and stuck to a "prudent" diet -- one rich in foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish.

Meanwhile, people who also ate a prudent diet but did drink diet beverages had a somewhat higher rate of metabolic syndrome -- but not by much.


Participants with the highest rate of metabolic syndrome -- at 32 percent -- were those who drank diet soda and downed the typical "Western" diet. That means lots of meat, processed foods and sugar.

Researchers say the findings suggest that overall diet is more important than certain food or beverage choice and that to make broad health improvements individuals need to consider the bigger picture.

Previously: Effects of diet sodas on weight gain remain uncertain, Are sports drinks healthier than sodas? Study shows teens think so and Will soda bans in city, school vending machines help Americans slim down?
Photo by Vox Efx

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