By Millie Pope | Image – Shutterstock.com
The increasing concerns about the adverse health effects of sugar intake have led to the promotion and consumption of sweeteners. In fact, one of the first measures that individuals take when attempting to lose weight and reduce their abdominal fat is changing refined sugar consumption for sweeteners. That includes changing from regular soda to diet soda, as well as it happens with other foods or edibles.
For these reasons, nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS) and diet soda (DSI) consumption increased over the past years. However, obesity has still been increasing too. Furthermore, the long-term effects of nonnutritive sweeteners and diet soda are not clear yet, despite the fact that some studies have been performed to examine the health effects of diet soda consumption. These studies have focused on middle-aged or younger adults but had not examined the effects of diet soda intake on individuals above 65 years of age.
Something that has been noticed is that the changes that our bodies undergo as we age contribute to increasing morbidity and mortality.
Waist circumference keeps rising throughout life, even though we lose muscle and weight over the years.
The age-related increase in waist circumference reflects a disproportionate increase in abdominal fat. Abdominal fat, or visceral fat, is tightly associated with increased cardiometabolic risk. Additionally, large waist circumference is a primary component of the metabolic syndrome.
Waist circumference, which indicates the presence of abdominal adiposity has been prospectively associated with other health conditions, such as:
• increased abdominal inflammation
• insulin resistance
• greater incidence of diabetes type 2
• cognitive difficulties
• cardiovascular disease
• greater mortality
A study named SALSA (San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging), was performed to investigate the relationship between long-term waist circumference change and diet soda consumption. 749 individuals aged 65 and older were examined and followed up for an average of 9.4 years. At the beginning participants´ diet soda intake, waist circumference, height, and weight were measured. Same was done after the conclusion. The results showed a surprising relationship between diet soda intake and bodily response. Furthermore, the study that took almost ten years showed that waist circumference gain in diet sodas consumers, daily or occasional, was nearly four times higher than that of nonconsumers. The increase in diet soda consumption is directly associated with an escalating augment in abdominal fat. It is now a demonstrated that the aging population who consume diet soda, are at high cardiometabolic risk.
Consistently with the results of other studies conducted on animals and humans on the consumption of sweeteners and/or diet soda, the mentioned study demonstrated that those individuals who consume nonnutrively sweetened drinks to fight back obesity, and/or metabolic and cardiovascular risk, are in fact putting themselves at even higher risk.
It is evident now that there is a strong need for education. Individuals of all ages, and particularly older ones, should receive nutritional education, which should promote the consumption of water, pure fruit juice, and unsweetened coffee or tea as healthy alternatives to diet sodas which instead of helping them to prevent obesity and its associated conditions, increase the risks of metabolic and heart disease.
Fowler et al, 2015, Diet Soda Intake Is Associated with Long-Term Increases in Waist Circumference in a Biethnic Cohort of Older Adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol 63, No. 4