Soda and Weight Gain

Two situations within the past couple of weeks have compelled me to do a bit of research on soda.  How bad is it, really?  I can honestly say that I never took the time to actually look into the effects that soda has on one’s body, until now. 

I have a new client who is trying to lose quite a bit of weight.  One issue he had when he started with me is that he drank about 5 cans of diet coke a day!  Even though I didn’t have a lot of knowledge on this bubbly substance, I knew that drinking 5 cans a day cannot be healthy.  If he is drinking that much soda, water is probably a very limited part of his daily liquid intake.  I had him start by replacing one can of diet coke with one glass of water a day.  He is down to 2-3 cans and drinking far more water than he used too.  We are progressively working to get him off of soda completely. 

Another client of mine told me that her husband, who does not work out and does not pay close attention to what he eats, cut soda from his diet.  Just in doing this, he has lost 12 lbs in 5 weeks.  I was shocked and furthermore took some time to look into soda and what it really can do to one’s body.  Here is what I found;

Overweight Risk Soars 41% With Each Daily Can of Diet Soft Drink
By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

June 13, 2005 — People who drink diet soft drinks don’t lose weight. In fact, they gain weight, a new study shows.

The findings come from eight years of data collected by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio. Fowler reported the data at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.

“What didn’t surprise us was that total soft drink use was linked to overweight and obesity,” Fowler tells WebMD. “What was surprising was when we looked at people only drinking diet soft drinks, their risk of obesity was even higher.”

In fact, when the researchers took a closer look at their data, they found that nearly all the obesity risk from soft drinks came from diet sodas.

“There was a 41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day,” Fowler says.

More Diet Drinks, More Weight Gain

Fowler’s team looked at seven to eight years of data on 1,550 Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white Americans aged 25 to 64. Of the 622 study participants who were of normal weight at the beginning of the study, about a third became overweight or obese.

For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

  • 26% for up to 1/2 can each day
  • 30.4% for 1/2 to one can each day
  • 32.8% for 1 to 2 cans each day
  • 47.2% for more than 2 cans each day.

For diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:

  • 36.5% for up to 1/2 can each day
  • 37.5% for 1/2 to one can each day
  • 54.5% for 1 to 2 cans each day
  • 57.1% for more than 2 cans each day.

For each can of diet soft drink consumed each day, a person’s risk of obesity went up 41%.

Diet Soda No Smoking Gun

Fowler is quick to note that a study of this kind does not prove that diet soda causes obesity. More likely, she says, it shows that something linked to diet soda drinking is also linked to obesity.

“One possible part of the explanation is that people who see they are beginning to gain weight may be more likely to switch from regular to diet soda,” Fowler suggests. “But despite their switching, their weight may continue to grow for other reasons. So diet soft-drink use is a marker for overweight and obesity.”

Why? Nutrition expert Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, puts it in a nutshell.

“You have to look at what’s on your plate, not just what’s in your glass,” Bonci tells WebMD.

People often mistake diet drinks for diets, says Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and nutrition consultant to college and professional sports teams and to the Pittsburgh Ballet.

“A lot of people say, ‘I am drinking a diet soft drink because that is better for me. But soft drinks by themselves are not the root of America’s obesity problem,” she says. “You can’t go into a fast-food restaurant and say, ‘Oh, it’s OK because I had diet soda.’ If you don’t do anything else but switch to a diet soft drink, you are not going to lose weight.”

If you are a consistent soda drinker, I hope you realize how much damage it can do to your body.  Along with gaining weight, you may gain a lot of other health problems.  Start by replacing a can of soda with a glass of water. 

Water is your body’s principal chemical component, making up, on average, 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on WATER, not soda.


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