How Diet Soda Can Lead To More Belly Fat — And Even Scarier Consequences — In Older Adults

When given the choice between diet soda and regular soda, the calorie-free option may not be the lesser of two evils. A recent study from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests that diet soda can also lead to more belly fat, especially as you get older.

Researchers looked at data from 749 adults over the age of 65 from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. They found that, over the course of almost 10 years, those who drank diet soda daily saw the growth of their waist circumferences more than double that of non-diet soda drinkers.

In the study, diet soda drinkers’ waist circumferences expanded 2.11 centimeters over the 9.4-year period, while non-diet soda drinkers’ waists only expanded 0.77 centimeters. Those who occasionally drank diet soda saw a 1.83 centimeter growth in weight circumference. Surprisingly, the researchers didn’t find any consistent relationship between drinking regular soda and waist circumference. (For whatever it’s worth, plenty of previous studies have had no trouble linking sugar-sweetened sodas with weight gain, though.)

Of course, the concerns associated with increasing abdominal fat extend far beyond vanity. Large waist circumference has been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, albuminuria, depression, cognitive decline and death from cancer and cardiovascular disease, among other health risks. As you get older, you’re more vulnerable to expanding waistlines and more visceral fat, the type of fat that can lead to greater health consequences since it’s around important abdominal organs like the liver, pancreas and intestines.

When it comes to soda, the reason for this waist-specific weight gain and accompanying health risks can possibly be traced back to an ingredient that’s found in many diet and regular sodas: phosphoric acid. According to Sharon P.G. Fowler, co-author of —> Read More