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Beverage Brands Challenged by Diet Soda Study

Posted by Mark J. Miller on July 25, 2011 01:00 PM

If you think you’re doing your body a favor by having a diet soda instead of the regular, you’ve got another think — and likely, another drink — coming.

A 12-year study of 474 people between the ages of 65 and 74 that brings bad news to diet-soda drinkers was presented at the 71st scientific sessions at the recent American Diabetes Association conference.

“On average, those who drank diet sodas ended up with waistlines that increased three times more than those who avoided them,” the study showed, according to the Detroit Free Press.

So the people who are drinking regular sodas should have even larger waistlines, right? Well, not necessarily. “People who consumed more than two diet sodas a day had waistlines that increased five times more than the nondiet soda drinkers, which included people who drank water, juices and even regular sodas,” the report showed, the paper notes.

The researchers commented in their abstract: "These results suggest that – amidst the national drive to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks – policies which would promote the consumption of DSDs (diet soft drinks) may have unintended deleterious effects. Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised: they may be free of calories, but not of consequences."

One of the study’s authors, Helen Hazuda, chief of clinical epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, said that “taste dysfunction” may help explain the phenomenon. “Because artificial sweeteners taste hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar, our bodies come to expect sugary foods to be extremely sweet,” the Free Press reports. As a result, consumers begin to try and find more and more sugary food.

Meanwhile, a few soda makers in Connecticut still produce small batches of flavored sodas from generations-old recipes that are sold in glass bottles and wooden crates. “The biggest concession to modern times is the addition of diet varieties,” the Press Herald reports.

"Our equipment is state-of-the-art 1950s," said Rob Metz, the owner and developer of Avery's Beverages, which is more than 100 years old. Avery’s top-two selling products are two of its oldest, the paper notes: red cream soda and white birch beer.

[At top: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes members to the American Diabetes Association conference in a video about childhood obesity and her Let's Move program.]

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