17 Dec 2012

Diet sodas: Better than sugary drinks, but think before you take a sip

Diet sodas: Better than sugary drinks, but think before you take a sip BY BILL DALEY Chicago Tribune If sugary sodas are as bad for you as nutritionists and, increasingly, local officials nationwide insist, it stands to reason a drink containing a sugar substitute might be better for you, right? Not so fast. Studies of diet soda's health impact are delivering mixed messages. While there are some folks who like the taste of diet sodas -- thinking of you, die-hard Tab fans -- most folks pop for a diet beverage because it holds out the promise of lost weight. Some studies suggest it delivers on that; others disagree. "Diet sodas have no calories," said Marion Nestle, the New York University professor, author of "What to Eat" and expert in nutrition and public policy. "But on a population basis, they seem to have no impact on weight. Indeed, their use has increased in parallel with the rising prevalence of obesity." She said the leading theory, as yet unproven, is "that the sweet taste fools the brain into thinking sweet calories are coming and reacts with hormonal and other metabolic signals accordingly. It's easy to compensate for missing calories. But I don't think anyone really knows what's going on." Meanwhile, other studies of diet soda claim consumption may increase your chances of having a stroke or developing metabolic syndrome, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Tina Ruggiero, a registered dietitian based in Tierra Verde, Fla., said cardiovascular risk is particularly seen in men. "That doesn't mean one diet soda a day will lead to a heart attack, but there's some sort of connection," she said. Somewhat more supportive of diet sodas is Michael Jacobson, executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest. The Washington, D.C.-based health-advocacy group just released an animated short film targeting the health impacts of regular soda and sugary drinks called "The Real Bears" (www.therealbears.org). "Diet soda is much better than regular soda. It lacks 10 teaspoons of sugar per 12 ounces," he said, noting studies have shown people drinking regular soda have gained weight, while those consuming diet soda have not. "There's good evidence diet soda doesn't make you obese," he said. "I think it's better to drink diet soda (than regular), but diet soda does have its drawbacks." There's caffeine, he noted, which can affect some people. Phosphoric acids can promote tooth decay. There have been safety questions about the ingredients used in caramel coloring formulas and the artificial sweeteners used.............

No comments: