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.


Jme said...

but diet soda is only like 2 calories right? they would have to drink dozens of diet soda to "over compensate" no? i agree with the latter though, i bet also if you drink sweetness in the diet beverage all the time and so you feed that craving then what happens when you dont have a "diet" coke available? then youd have to go for the real thing to satisfy it. depending on how often that happens it could overcompensate, especially versus someone with the habit under control.

Naz said...

Thank you sybil for the info. Very interesting.
You say that there is a
'link between diet soda and obesity".Obesity also effects breastfeeding very negatively.The prevelance is rising in women over 20 from 25% in 1994 to 47%in 2002.
It negatively influences the initiation and duration of breastfeeding.
So poor nutrition not only effects the moms but also their children since breastfeeding may help with maternal weight control and may contribute to the prevention of overweight /obesity in their children.

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks for your comments Naz!

The Canadian stats I saw from 2004 are that 23% of Canadians (5.5 million people) over 18 are obese (BMI>30) compared to 13.8% in 1978-79 and 15.2% in 2003.
36% (another 8.6 million people) of the population is overweight.
Still lots of people!

The studies regarding the role of breastfeeding on the child's chances of being overweight later in life seem to be contradictory (maybe I'll blog about those soon!) but regardless, breastfeeding has tons of benefits for the baby and even the mother... if it can help prevent obesity, that's just icing on the cake!

A study has also shown that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a heart disease risk factor.
The research also shows that a child that was breastfed may also have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure later on, also a risk factor for heart disease!

Lots of benefits!!
Keep reading and thanks for commenting!

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks for your comment Jme.

What they mean by 'over-compensating' is not that they'd drink lots of diet cokes, but people that drink diet coke are more likely to eat more food.
The 150 calories (the calories in a regular 12-oz soft drink) they're saving by drinking diet is very easy to make up. a few chips, a few nuts, half a bagel, 1/2 a small fries...

As for the sweetness. I think what's happening is that the craving is NOT being satisfied- because it's not real sugar. So even if diet coke is available, people "go for the real thing", as you said.

Thanks again and keep reading- feel free to suggest topics.

Jme said...

ic, ic, here is another on topic study that just came out, I am not sure if you referenced it in your research for this post but it is on rats:
As you did, it clarifies and proves the 2nd argument. Seems that there is a craving for some property of sugar that is not being satisfied by artificial sweeteners. Where the "over" of "overcompensating" comes from though I still do not understand...

Jme said...

well thats silly, please add the following two lines to the above link to get to the article referenced...

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Thanks Jme. I had heard about that study- check out my new blog for more about sweeteners!