During the American Diabetes Association 71st Scientific Sessions, researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio reported on (abstract 0062-OR) the relationship between drinking diet soft drinks and long-term changes in waist circumference.

First, the details.

  • 474 adults in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging participated.
  • Height, weight, waist circumference, and diet soft drink intake were recorded before the study and at each of 3 follow-up exams over an average of 3.6 years.
  • The average change in waist circumference among diet soft drink users vs. non-users was adjusted for gender; baseline waist circumference, age, ethnicity, education, neighborhood, leisure physical activity, diabetes, and smoking status; and duration of follow-up.

And, the results.

  • Diet soft drink users had a significant 70% greater increase in waist circumference vs non-users (+2 cm vs. less than +1 cm), respectively.
  • There was a significant positive relationship between diet soft drink use and subsequent waist circumference.
  • Estimates for the change in waist circumference were 63% higher in daily diet soft drink users vs non-users, but this difference was not significant.
  • Among frequent users (at least 2 diet soft drinks/day) the average increases in waist circumference was a significant 5 times greater than those in non-users.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “These results suggest that — amidst the national drive to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks — policies which would promote the consumption of diet soft drinks may have unintended deleterious effects.”

The results are potentially important because waist circumference is widely used as a proxy measure of visceral adiposity, a major risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions.

The researchers caution “that the promotion of diet sodas as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised: they may be free of calories, but not of consequences.”

OK, but in the real world — I refer to those of us constantly trying to maintain our waistline — it could mean the difference between a 36″ and 38″ pain of jeans.

7/1/11 18:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.