Why “Diet” Soda Makes You Fat
Many people see diet soda is an innocuous, harmless beverage that can’t possibly cause any harm to their waistline since it doesn’t have any calories. Think again.
Research published this summer in the medical journal Circulation shows that people who drink more than one soda a day — whether it’s regular or diet — have an almost 50 percent increased risk for metabolic syndrome, which doubles their risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Two years ago, a study at the University of Texas Health Science Center found that there was a 41 percent increase in the risk for being overweight for every single can of diet soda a person consumed daily.
But how can something with no calories increase the risk for obesity and heart disease?
There are several possible ways.
First, my own theory is that the sweet taste works in the brain to create a conditioned response. The body responds as it usually does to normal sugar — with insulin, the fat-storing hormone. Those circuits in the brain are pretty primitive and ancient, and they can’t immediately distinguish chemical fakery. As far as your brain is concerned, sweet means sugar. It’s entirely possible that physiologically, you would respond to aspartame in the same way as you would to table sugar. It’s only a theory, but it makes sense to me.
Second, sugar creates its own cravings. Just as a taste of rum creates an unstoppable craving in an alcoholic, it’s entirely possible that the taste of sweet, even if it’s fake, creates the same cascade of cravings in a carb addict that regular sugar does, leading to overeating and binging and all the rest of the reasons people put on weight.
Third, many people think that by drinking diet beverages they’re “saving” calories. They subconsciously allow themselves to eat more, figuring it’s not doing as much harm since they’re drinking a diet drink. The diet drink gives them subconscious “permission” to eat more.
What’s worse than making you fat, aspartame may be toxic. Aspartame
is made primarily from three ingredients: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. Methanol, an alcohol, breaks down in the body to formaldehyde, a poison if there ever was one. Apologists for aspartame say that it doesn’t create enough formaldehyde in the body to cause any damage, but I’m not so sure. Exposing children to formaldehyde levels as low as .75 mg daily for several months has been shown to cause gradual toxicity. Plus, diet soda is frequently stored in hot warehouses, causing chemical breakdowns that went undetected in the original safety studies that looked at “ideal” conditions.
Soda is bad news, whether regular or diet. Period.
Note: Dr. Bowden is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He’s a board certified nutrition specialist with a Master’s degree in psychology.