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Is diet pop making you fat?

While they’re promoted as sugar- and calorie-free alternatives to the fizzy sweet originals, diet sodas aren’t the simple drinks they appear to be apparently, especially if you’re watching your weight. In fact, researchers in Texas (via Science Daily) believe drinking diet pop may be one of the reasons your pants are a little snug in the first place.

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While they’re promoted as sugar- and calorie-free alternatives to the fizzy sweet originals, diet sodas aren’t the simple drinks they appear to be, especially if you’re watching your weight. In fact, researchers in Texas  (via Science Daily) believe drinking diet pop may be one of the reasons your pants are a little snug in the first place. 

Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas presented findings from two diet pop-related studies at a recent gathering of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego. 

The first study took place over a decade and included data from more than 470 people, some who drank diet pop and some who didn’t. After observing participants weight and waist size over 10 years, the researchers found that the diet pop drinkers showed an increase in waist circumference compared to those who didn’t drink diet pop. 

The increase wasn’t exactly insignificant either. Those who drank diet soft drinks had a 70 per cent greater increase in belly fat than non-drinkers of diet drinks. And those who drank more than two sodas a day experienced a 500 per cent greater increase in waist circumference compared to those who drank no diet sodas at all. 

If you think a big belly isn’t a problem, think again. As the Science Daily article points out that abdominal fat is a risk factor for a number of diseases and ailments including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. 

In the second study, an animal trial, researchers found a link between the artificial sweetener aspartame, an ingredient which is commonly used in diet pop, and an increase in the blood sugar levels of mice. For researchers, this uptick in fasting glucose or blood sugar levels may connect chronic diet soda consumption with diabetes. 

These findings in mind, the authors of both studies seriously question the wisdom of encouraging people to give up sugar-sweetened drinks in favour of seemingly more healthful diet drinks that contain aspartame and other “sugar-free” components. 

Next time you have a hankering for a little sweet carbonation it might be wiser to indulge in the real thing (in moderation) rather than make a habit of sampling the diet alternative.