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Calorie free isn’t consequence free

For years and years most sensible nutritional experts have been trying to de-bunk the notion that diet products are in any way beneficial for those who are struggling to lose weight. Now finally research is proving what we have been saying all this time. Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Centre in San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans, and a second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar) in diabetes-prone mice.

“Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,” said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. “They may be free of calories but not of consequences.”

To examine the relationship between diet soft drink consumption and long-term change in waist circumference, the team assessed data from 474 participants in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging, or SALSA. This is a large, population-based study of the disablement process in elderly Mexican Americans and European Americans. Dr. Hazuda, senior author of the presentation, is SALSA’s principal investigator and has led the study for two decades.

Measures of height, weight, waist circumference and diet soda intake were recorded at SALSA enrollment and at three follow-up exams that took place over the next decade. The average follow-up time was 9.5 years. Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users. You cannot really argue with numbers like that but aren’t they scary?

Abdominal fat is a major risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic conditions. “These results suggest that, amidst the national drive to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, policies that would promote the consumption of diet soft drinks may have unintended deleterious effects,” the authors wrote.

So if you are still drinking or eating products labelled as zero sugar or calorie free read the labels and stay away from any that are laden with artificial sweeteners! The reality is that you do not need refined sugars or any form of artificial sweeteners in your diet. If you are very dependent on them it is important to start by giving them up, one at a time. When you begin to change your diet it is hard at the beginning as it takes a little time for your taste buds to change but they will. If you are a fizzy drink addict start by adding soda water to fresh fruit juice, this is much less sweet but try it a few times and you will get to like it.

Trashing artificial sweeteners does not of course mean that other refined sugars are a better choice, to quote Lynne McTaggart and Bryan Hubbard Editors of “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” magazine, “refined sugar is essentially the modern world’s Genghis Khan, responsible for more deaths than all other sophisticated weaponry combined… as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, eye disease, liver disease virtually the whole of degenerative disease in modern times beats a path back to the white stuff”. Amazingly strong speak but it appears that it is our modern reliance on sugar that is responsible for many of the terrible diseases which are increasingly commonplace.

The difficulty is that if you eat many processed foods the amount of added sugar can be amazingly high, even in foods that you would never imagine it should be in. To give you an idea of some of the outlandish amounts of sugar in foods here are some statistics based on sugar cubes, each cube contains 5grams of sugar. Surprisingly salad cream, surely a savoury food, per portion can contain ½ a cube of sugar, a portion of low fat coleslaw can have 2 cubes of added sugar, low fat yoghurts, many peoples main snack choice when on a diet has 5 cubes of sugar per pot, fruit smoothies another diet snack can have 2 ½ cubes per glass, and even a slice of wholemeal bread can contain up to ½ cube. So start reading labels and take note of what sugar, and it can be called many things from sucrose, fructose, lactose to corn syrup, is hidden within and even better do your best to cook or prepare as much food as you can from scratch, get yourself tooled up with time saving equipment like a good food processor it makes your own coleslaw a breeze, it tastes better and you know what is in it.

Roisin Armstrong is a Kinesiologist and Acupuncturist and has clinics in Portglenone 02825821333 and Holywood 07770862637.