Diet Sodas Not Doing Waistlines Any Favors

Obesity in older adults may be linked to diet soda consumption

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Obesity in older people is often blamed on poor diet or reduced metabolism. However, diet sodas, a typical replacement for high-sugar drinks, may also be a culprit.

A new study found that waist sizes increased in older patients who drank diet sodas. These size increases may be due to increased fat levels instead of an increase in total weight.

Sharon P. G. Fowler, MPH, of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, led this study.

"Our study seeks to [explore] the adverse health effects of diet soda intake in individuals 65 years of age and older," Fowler said in a press release. "The burden of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, along with healthcare costs, is great in the ever-increasing senior population."

Rusty Gregory, a personal trainer and wellness coach in Austin, TX, told dailyRx News that there are plenty of healthy alternatives to diet soda.

"If you're looking to make a healthy change away from diet sodas, try herbal teas, green tea, black tea or sparkling water," he said.

Fowler and team studied nearly 750 patients in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA). All patients were 65 or older at the start of the study.

Diet soda intake, waist size, height and weight were assessed for each patient at the beginning of the study. Follow-up measurements were taken in three intervals over the next decade.

Fowler and team found that the average body mass index (BMI) was higher in patients who consumed diet sodas as compared to patients who did not drink them. BMI is a measure of overall body fat based on height and weight.

Those patients who drank more than one diet soda daily on average showed a minimal increase in BMI over time. Those who did not drink any diet sodas had a decrease in their BMI.

Patients who drank more than one diet soda daily had a waist size increase of 3.04 cm (1.2 inches) per follow-up interval. Those who drank less than one diet soda daily had an increase of 1.76 cm (0.69 inches).

Patients who did not drink diet sodas only had a waist size increase of 0.77 cm (0.3 inches) per follow-up interval.

The overall increase in waist size over the entire follow-up period was 3.16 inches in daily diet soda drinkers, 1.83 inches for moderate (less than 1 per day) diet soda drinkers and 0.8 inches for non-diet soda drinkers.

Fowler and team said the increase in waist size was due to an increase in belly fat levels instead of an increase in weight.

Older Americans should try to curb their intake of artificially sweetened drinks to improve their health, Fowler and colleagues wrote.

This study was published March 17 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Grants from the National Institute on Aging and other sources funded this research. Fowler and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 16, 2015
Last Updated:
March 19, 2015