For a self conscious couch potato, light variant of the sodas (the so-called sugar-free types) would be the solution against the sumo belly and all its accompanying metabolic syndrome issues, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, elevated levels of the blood triglycerides (saturated fats) and low levels of the artery-protecting HDL cholesterol. Still, a new research has found that drinking more than one soda daily, even the light variant, is linked to a higher incidence of metabolic syndrome.
"The link to diet soda found in the study was striking but not entirely a surprise. There had been some hints of it in earlier studies. But this is the
first study to show the association in a prospective fashion and in a large population," said senior author Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
The survey was made on a pool of over 6,000 subjects in the Framingham Heart Study, following residents of a Massachusetts town since 1948. At the beginning of the research, all subjects were free of metabolic syndrome. Over the four years of the research, the subjects consuming over one soft drink of any kind daily were 44 % more prone to metabolic syndrome than those who didn't consume a soda a day.
"A variety of explanations, none proven, have been proposed for the link between diet soft drink consumption and metabolic syndrome," Vasan said.
The connection remained valid even when the researchers took into consideration some factors like the amounts of saturated fat and fiber in the diet, total calorie intake, smoking and physical activity.
"One theory is that the high sweetness of all soft drinks makes a person more prone to eat sugary, fattening foods. Another is that the caramel content of soft drinks promotes metabolic changes that lead to insulin resistance," Vasan said.
"But we cannot infer causality," Vasan said, as soda itself has not been clearly linked to any of the symptoms.
"We have an association. Maybe it is a causal one or maybe it is a marker of something else. Carefully controlled animal studies might resolve the cause-and-effect issue," he said.
"Other studies have shown that the extra calories and sugar in soft drinks contribute to weight gain, and therefore heart disease risk. This study echoes those findings by extending the link to all soft drinks and the metabolic syndrome." said Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel, director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
"There is no safe way of eating junk food, just as we learned the lesson from trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils often found in fat-free or low-fat cookies. Diet soda does not protect us from the development of what we are trying to avoid by consuming it." said Dr. Suzanne R. Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.