The Diet Soda Debate

July 29th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

It was not unusual for me to go through a six-pack of Diet Cokes in my years in high school and college.  I used to call Diet Coke the “nectar of the gods” I drank it so much.

It’s embarrassing and a little frightening to think about it now!

What made me give it up?

When I went on Weight Watchers and really started to try and lose my excess weight, I started drinking a heck of a lot of water.  What a difference that made in my life!  So in part I gave up so much soda because my bladder just isn’t that big.

And then a few years later I started to really get into being fit.  And I started thinking about how what I put into my body really was making my body what it is.  I’m not all the way there yet, at all, but I realized just how many chemicals, particularly aspartame, that scared me.

When I see news reports linking diet soda consumption to higher weight and risky waist to hip ratios I wonder even more.

Sure, I am at zero risk of developing diabetes as a result of diet soda consumption.  But that doesn’t mean I want to taunt unknown other effects of those chemicals!  (And no, I never had diet soda or aspartame or anything close before I was diagnosed with type one diabetes.)

One group studied the body measurements of people who drank diet soda and those who did not.  After nine and a half years:

Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.

Why does waist circumference matter?  It signals the amount of abdominal fat, a major risk factor for a whole host of chronic conditions that include cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The other study reported was conducted on mice: they gave half the diabetes-prone mice (how did they know that?) food with added corn oil, and the other half received food with added corn oil and added aspartame.

After three months on this high-fat diet, the mice in the aspartame group showed elevated fasting glucose levels but equal or diminished insulin levels, consistent with early declines in pancreatic beta-cell function. 

Oh dear.  When someone starts discussing beta-cell function it’s already too close for comfort in my world.  (Pancreatic beta cells, responsible for insulin production, are what my body attacked to cause my type one diabetes and why type one is an autoimmune disease.)

As someone already living with a chronic condition, I want to avoid any other reasons to be under a doctor’s care.  So for me, the choice to avoid artificial sweeteners is a good one.  Now I drink a lot of water, a lot of tea, and soda water.  It works, and I don’t feel deprived.  It feels like a great healthy and simple choice to have made for myself and my body.

We’re all doing the best we can, after all.

Here’s to you and the healthy choices you make for you and your body!

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