The perception that diet soft drinks are a benign alternative to highly sweetened beverages might be dangerously wrong, according to the results of a study reported here at the American Diabetes Association 71st Scientific Sessions. In the study presented, researchers examined the effect of the long-term consumption of diet soft drinks by a population of individuals 65 to 74 years of age. At baseline, measures of height, weight, and waist circumference were recorded, as was diet soft drink intake. Three additional exams of the study subjects were conducted over an average follow-up of just over 3.5 years (the study was conducted over a 9-year period). When the results of these observations were compared with those from subjects who did not drink diet soft drinks, the differences were striking.
Overall, consumers of diet soft drinks experienced a 70% greater increase in waist circumference than nonconsumers. Further, among elderly drinkers of 2 or more diet soft drinks per day, mean increases in waist circumference were 5 times greater than those recorded for nonconsumers. These results suggest that amidst the national drive to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, policies that promote the consumption of diet soft drinks may have unintended deleterious effects.