Diet soda linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome in seniors

Researchers have linked increased intake of diet soft drinks to greater amounts of belly fat and higher risks of obesity metabolic syndrome in older adults, notes a study published online this week by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The study tracked 749 seniors by measuring diet soda intake, waist circumference and other measures over a 9 1/2-year period. As diet soda intake went up, so did amounts of belly fat and tendencies toward obesity. At the end of each 2-year followup segment, diet soda drinkers had almost triple the belly fat increase as non diet soda drinkers, the data showed.

Escalating body fat creates a much higher risk of the dreaded metabolic syndrome, which can trigger myriad conditions in older adults, including high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Although the study focused only on diet soda, the study is a reminder of ongoing questions about artificial sweeteners, which have been used with increasing frequency in food and beverage over the past 30 years.

"Our study seeks to fill the age gap by exploring the adverse health effects of diet soda intake in individuals 65 years of age and older," said lead author Sharon Fowler, MPH, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in a press release. "The burden of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, along with healthcare costs, is great in the ever-increasing senior population."

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