- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Participants in a study have given Texas researchers some interesting data on diet soda drinkers — elderly individuals who went for the “healthy” option put on much more weight than those who abstained.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that over the course of nearly a decade, diet soda drinkers added and average of 3.16 inches to their waist while those who who drank standard versions of their favorite soda increased by 0.8 inches. The study was published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The study used 750 adults with an average age of 65 when it began, ABC Radio reported Wednesday.

Researchers believe that artificial sweeteners may be the cause of the correlation between diet drinks and weight gain.

“The gut microbiome is like our personal inner rainforest. If our intestines are like an ecosystem, then could drinking highly acidic drinks like sodas day after day be comparable to acid rain in a real rainforest? To borrow from Austin Powers, it’s not a ‘consequence-free environment,’” study author Sharon Fowler told Forbes magazine on Tuesday.

Ms. Fowler believes that sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose have an effect on the body’s digestive system to properly do its job, which may contribute to weight gain over time. Those extra pounds then make the body more susceptible to health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

“We have sweetness receptors not just on our tongues but also in our intestines and pancreas,”Ms. Fowler told Forbes. “If these sweetness receptors are getting hyper-activated, they may be triggering the release of insulin when the body doesn’t really need it — or failing to trigger it when it does.”

The American Beverage Association pushed back against the study on Tuesday.

“Previous research, including human clinical trials, supports that diet beverages are an effective tool as part of an overall weight management plan. Numerous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of diet beverages — as well as low-calorie sweeteners, which are in thousands of foods and beverages — in helping to reduce calorie intake,” the organization said in a statement released to its website. “It’s important to recognize that this observational study looked at an aging population – those over 65 at the beginning of the study, who are already at risk of weight gain and cardiovascular disease — and then made conclusions based on associations,” the ABA added.

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