Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Which Is Healthier: Diet Soda Or Sugary Soda?

Are we really debating whether regular or diet Coke is better for you?

This Newsday column about a new study showing overweight teenagers losing weight when given non-sugary alternatives to high-sugar beverages just further proves that diet soda is a healthier alternative despite reports that it allegedly leads to weight gain.

With pressure already being placed on soda manufacturers to place warning labels on their products to curb obesity, especially in children, this study out of Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts may spread that to cover all beverage manufacturers of sugary drinks.

That's because the researchers there found that when kids are given ready-made access to noncaloric beverages, such as diet soda, it helps them lose weight.

The study of 103 kids ages 13-18 from a local Boston area high school were bribed with a $100 mall gift certificate if they committed to do the entire six-month study and they all did it.

One group of students received a home delivery of four sugar-free drinks, such as water and artificially sweetened diet beverages, daily while the other group was left to their own devices to obtain the nonsweetened drinks with simple instructions to avoid sugary drinks. In fact, they were given periodic phone calls and a cute little magnet that proclaimed "Think Before You Drink" to post on their refrigerator to remind them.

Predictably, though, the group that had to seek out their own diet drinks gained weight, according to co-director of obesity research at Boston hospital Cara Ebbeling. Meanwhile, the group that was given diet drinks actually lost weight in the study and saw a whopping 82 percent reduction in sugary drink consumption at the end of the trial.

"Simply educating teens to avoid sugar may not be enough," Ebbeling explained. "We delivered calorie-free beverages to their homes and we found that the heaviest teens lost weight."

She is hopeful that this study will prove to be a measurable way to reduce the skyrocketing obesity rates in the U.S. which have tripled since 1980 among teenagers.

This study appears in the March 2006 edition of the journal Pediatrics.

My concern with all this is the fact that we get conflicting messages about how supposedly unhealthy diet beverage products are and that they are contributing to weight gain as detailed in this recent Houston Chronicle story. People read this stuff and just throw their hands up in the air. I don't blame them.

But as a BIG FAN of diet soda which I credit for helping me lose over 180 pounds as part of my low-carb lifestyle, imagine my surprise last summer when this study came out claiming that diet soda is more unhealthy for you than sugary soda. Nothing could be more ridiculous or unfounded in my not-so-humble opinion!

And yet the argument is that while you take in less calories drinking diet soda than with sugary soda, you end up consuming MORE sugar to reward yourself for being good. Say who what? Plus, opponents of diet soda also point to the fact that while more people than ever are drinking it, the obesity rates are still on the rise. Is this BECAUSE of diet soda consumption, though? What else are these idiots eating or drinking on top of that diet soda? Hmmmm?

Oooooookay, so which is it? Are we saying that diet soda is more unhealthy than sugary soda or vice versa?

To me, there's no question that the regular sugary versions of Coke, Pepsi, etc. are MUCH worse for you than any diet version of those products will EVER be. Sugar can NEVER be a part of a healthy lifestyle and sugar addiction is a very real problem that must be dealt with.

Is anybody gonna disagree with me that diet soda is healthier for you than sugary soda? Anyone? Please make your case if you think sugary soda is better for you than diet. I'll be waiting...

3-8-06 UPDATE: As if the evidence wasn't compelling enough already, here's yet ANOTHER news story today about a study linking weight gain to soda consumption. If sugar isn't what is causing this to happen, then what is? Where are the low-fat diehards now?


Blogger DNAchic said...

I agree that sugary soda is very bad for you and although I prefer the taste, because of the sugar, I opt for diet soda. I am a little concerned about consuming large quantities of artificial sweeteners on a regular basis though. Does anyone know if there are any long-term studies addressing whether there may be health risks from prolonged consumption of these chemicals? I'm an avid supporter of Suzanne Sommers' "Sommersize" diet plan and she has been following it faithfully for decades and I know first hand that it works; however, she now has cancer... Could there be a link?

3/09/2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

If she combined it with a low-fat, high-carb, high-fiber diet you bet there's a link. Sufficient intake of healthy fats protects against many forms of cancer. Too much fiber is the diet is also not a good idea.

For me, I use either Splenda-based drinks and Stevia, which is completely natural. And water of course, lots of it. I love the taste of water anyway.

3/11/2006 9:04 PM  
Blogger Regina Wilshire said...

"healthier" - hmmmm

I wouldn't call either a "healthy" choice - one is lesser an evil than the other, but neither is going to offer nutrients or a health benefit because of consumption.

Water is a healthy option, mineral water with a twist of lemon or lime is a healthy option, but soda - sugared or diet - not a "healthy" option, just a choice one will have instead of something that is a healthy option!


3/14/2006 12:34 PM  

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