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If you are trying to shed some pounds, decrease your weight and lower your calorie consumption, you may be thinking about using the foods with reduced calories, or so called ‘diet foods’. Diet soda and light carbonated drinks are among those. The deal seems to be very good: you can have a low-calorie drink and enjoy the benefits of reduced calorie consumption. However, it is not as simple as it seems. Those who were using diet soda and other similar low calorie sugary drinks for some time reported about unexpected weight gain, especially in the waist area. According to the findings of the specialists from the University of Texas Health Science Center, consuming diet soda causes 70 per cent rise in waist circumference. Why does it happen, and why is diet soda bad for you? Are there really links between diet soda and weight gain? A group of scientists led by Christophe Chassard and Amanda N. Payne, the experts from Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH Zürich, Switzerland, conducted a series of studies in order to find out more about the issue.
A previous research by the same scientific team published earlier this spring has discovered the connections between consuming diet soda and weight gain in kids (see this article). A new study published in June in Obesity Reviews examines the same links in adult people which turned down to have the same causes and mechanism. As the scientists explained in their study report, artificial fructose-rich sweeteners and other ingredients of diet soda cause serious changes and affect our gut bacteria which live is our guts and provide the effectiveness of our digestive function. As the scientists suggest, these changes lead to weight gain, increased risk of obesity and all other related risks, including increased chances to suffer from a heart attack, atherosclerosis, and other serious health conditions. The first and the most important effects include distorting our satiety signals and changing metabolism, which in turn lead to feeling extra tired, gaining extra pounds and increasing our obesity risk.
To help you answer the questions, why is diet soda bad for you and why does it cause obesity, the scientists tried to explain the discovered phenomena. They monitored the processes linked to digesting foods and low calorie diet drinks, and could observe the changes in gut bacteria function. As the food is being processed, certain substances like short-chain fatty acids are being released. Usually, these acids are considered beneficial since they bring energy to the body, support metabolism function, etc. However, when our gut bacteria start feeding on artificial sweeteners (mainly high-fructose sweeteners and sugar alcohols) from diet soda, its efficiency in producing short-chain fatty acids increases drastically. As a result, our body starts producing plenty of extra energy which tends to be stored in our body as extra fat, causing body mass increase and high risk of obesity. Short-chain fatty acids also cause damaged satiety signals linked to disruptions in our feeling full, inability to stop eating in time and avoid overeating, the scientists say.
In addition to that, there is one more negative effect of drinking light soft drinks and other diet carbonated beverages, making the links between diet soda and weight gain clearer and more harmful. Payne and her colleagues have discovered that short-chain fatty acids create favorable environment for intestinal inflammation which very often brings to damaging gut tissues and causing leaky gut syndrome. This is a condition associated with gut bacteria leaking through the damaged tissue right into the blood stream, causing increased risks of inflammation in the body. Leaky gut syndrome is linked to insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus Type 2, as well as cardiovascular conditions like a stroke, coronary artery disease, and others. Therefore, consuming plenty of diet soda is linked to overproduction of short-chain fatty acids and all the above mentioned negative health effects. Payne underlines that further research is necessary on the effects of diet soda and weight gain, but consuming diet soda in moderation is highly recommended, the scientist says. Read more about the findings of this expert group in this report.Author Info: Hi! My name is Carla and I am a 5th year medical student at HYMS. I am interested in alternative medicine and I have done months researching the topic of herbal medicine. Besides, I like interviewing people and learning more about their experiences with one or another type of herbal treatments. I am willing to contribute to this site with my knowledge, and I would be happy to help you out to the best of my ability with any specific questions or problems related to alternative medicine.