People who drink diet sodas have slightly increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease in comparison to people who do not drink diet soda, but overall diet matters more, observational study finds

Nevin Barich

Nevin Barich

LOS ANGELES , March 31, 2012 () – According to a study led by Kiyah J. Duffey of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, people who drink diet sodas have a slightly increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease in comparison to people who do not drink diet soda, but overall diet matters more, Reuters reported March 28.

Duffey stressed that this was an observational study, which means that it cannot prove causation.

The study, which began in the mid-1980s, followed more than 4,000 Americans for 20 years. The participants were all between 18-30 years of age when the study began. During the course of the study, 827 participants developed metabolic syndrome, which is a group of risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease including elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and the development of extra weight around the waist.

The researchers found that, in comparison to young adults who did not consume diet beverages, young adults who consumed diet beverages were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. They also found that overall diet played a significant role.

People who consumed a “prudent diet,” defined as a diet that is rich in fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and consumed no diet beverages had the lowest risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Eighteen percent of individuals who fit into this category developed metabolic syndrome.

Twenty percent of participants who consumed a prudent diet along with diet beverages developed metabolic syndrome.

Participants who ate a typical “Western diet” containing large amounts of sugar, processed foods and meat, and drank diet soda were most likely to develop metabolic syndrome — 32% of participants in this study developed the condition.

The primary source of this article is Reuters, London, England, March 28, 2012.

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