Thursday, 7 February 2008
I'll have a burger, fries, a diet soda and a heart attack, please
Researchers have found another reason to cut back on red meat, fried foods and diet soda. Wait, diet soda?!
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, studied the food intake (using a 66-item food frequency questionnaires) of 9514 people aged 45-64 years old for at least 9 years.
In general, a Western-diet that was heavy on refined grains, processed meats, fried food, red meat, eggs and soda and light on fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grains, was associated with an 18% increased risk for metabolic syndrome, even after adjusting for smoking, physical activity and caloric intake.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of heart disease risk factors that include:
a high waist circumference, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low "Healthy" HDL cholesterol and high fasting blood glucose levels. Having 3 or more of these risk factors increases greatly your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
The adults who ate 2 or more servings of meat a day increased their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 25% compared to those that ate meat twice a week or less.
Fried food was also associated with a higher rate of metabolic syndrome, as was diet soda. Risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34% higher among those that drank one can diet soda a day compared to those that didn't drink any.
Interestingly, other studies have found a link between diet soda intake, metabolic syndrome and obesity. For example, the Framingham Heart Study- a huge cardiovascular study based in Framingham, Massachusetts that started in 1948 with 5209 participants and is now on its 3rd generation participants and has taught us most of what we know about heart disease- recently released that they found that people who drank one or more 12-oz soda- diet or regular- had a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome and of being obese. We know regular soda is associated with increased obesity rates and metabolic syndrome, but why diet soda?
Marion Nesltle points out in her book What to Eat that rates of overweight and obesity have risen in parallel with the increase in use of artificial sweetener. Coincidence? Probably not. Although sweeteners can help some people to reduce caloric intake and therefore, their weight, it seems that most people over-compensate and make up the calories saved, and a lot more!
Another theory, that needs to be researched further, states that because sweetener is very sweet, it signals the body that sugar is coming. Because sweeteners have no calories, we end up craving the calories that were promised but not delivered.
Regardless, the ARIC study results are clear: too much meat, fried foods and diet soda do not add up to a healthy diet or life.