Not only can being overweight lead to a multitude of health issues—some of which are fatal—like it or not, there is a social stigma attached to obesity, too. One painless way people try to keep their weight down is to switch from sugary sodas that are loaded with calories to diet sodas. If that is what you’ve been doing, it looks like you may want to have a plan B, because diet sodas have been linked to increased triglycerides, which, in turn, make you gain weight.
What the Heck are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the chemical form in which fat exists in food and in your body, according to Post-Gazette.com. Triglycerides come from eating fatty food and from drinking sugary drinks. Your blood stores triglycerides. The liver also manufactures triglycerides when it gets extra carbohydrates, which will be stored in your body as fat.
Cholesterol is classified as low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is bad, and HDL is good. Too much LDL can build up along your arteries that bring blood to the brain and heart and can eventually clog them, which is a cause of strokes and heart attacks. HDL, on the other hand, will carry the cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. The more HDL you have, the better. The way that triglycerides come into the picture is that they make HDL small and dense, making it easy for your urine to clear HDL away, says Dr. Oscar Marroquin, cardiologist, in the Post-Gazette.com article.
Consequences of Diet Soda
Not only does your body convert soft drinks to triglycerides, drinking them increases your risk of getting metabolic syndrome, says Dr. Ramachandran Vasan of the Boston University School of Medicine in the Post-Gazette.com article. Metabolic syndrome can lead to diabetes, heart disease and a bulging waistline. The part that startled researchers who are involved in the Framingham Heart Study, which has been ongoing since 1948 and studies the factors responsible for heart disease, is that diet sodas are just as responsible for triglyceride production as the sugary ones.
Diet Soda and Bad Eating
Speculation as to why diet sodas cause triglycerides is ongoing, as of 2009. Some theories are that heavy diet soda drinkers tend to have bad eating habits in general or that diet soda gives people a false sense of security regarding weight loss. Leslie Bonci, director of sports medicine nutrition for UPMC, says that people simply don’t lose any weight when they drink diet soda. The reason being is that diet soda is a sweet taste, which stimulates eating. Even though the reason for diet sodas causing triglyceride production is unknown, the association has been demonstrated, says Dr. Ravi Dhingra of the Harvard Medical School.
Beverage Industry Disagrees
Because the reason why diet drinks would cause an increase in triglycerides is unknown, the soft drink industry rebuts the implication, pointing to the American Heart Association’s findings that soft drinks are not a proven cause for heart disease. Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, says in Mercy Health Plans that diet sodas are a good way to watch your weight while drinking something refreshing.