The Diet Soda Dilemma

July 27, 2011 at 11:51 am , by

Diet soda might be making you fat. Okay, we know what you’re thinking: I get it! Obesity is a problem! But give me my diet soda or give me death! And trust us, we feel the same way. Diet soda is delicious. It’s sweet, fizzy and it has zero calories. But recent studies are chipping away at the drink’s guilt-free reputation.

Last month a University of Texas study found that people who regularly drank diet soda saw a 70 percent greater increase in their waistlines than non-drinkers over a 10-year period. Those who drank two or more diet sodas a day saw a 500 percent greater increase. Even more shocking: earlier studies from this year linked a diet-soda habit to diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

Why? It could be because artificial sweeteners are 200 to 700 times sweeter than real sugar. Experts theorize this makes you crave more sweetness, which has an effect on your eating habits.

“Artificial sweeteners trick the palate, so when you can’t get your Splenda but want something sugary, you need six times the sugar to reach the same level of sweetness,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at New York University.

In diet soda’s defense, the researchers didn’t take into consideration other parts of participants’ diets. It could just be that people who choose any kind of sodas over, say, water or green tea, are more likely to have poor eating habits. “People usually eat a bag of chips, not an apple, with their Diet Coke,” adds Dr. Young.

Keri Gans, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet, says people who want to drink soda should always choose diet over regular, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. “It has its place in the American diet,” she says. But even then, diet soda should only be a treat every once in a while. Water, seltzer or low-fat milk are much better choices.

So what’s your diet-soda stance? Are you going to try to cut back or keep on sipping?

Photo by the Self Improvement Association.

Vicious Cycle

March 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm , by

walking the dogAre you sad because you’re fat, or fat because you’re sad? It may be a little of both, says an analysis of previous studies in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Obesity increases your risk of depression by 55 percent, while depression increases your risk of obesity by 58 percent.

One way to break the cycle: exercise. A proven mood booster, physical activity can also lower feelings of anxiety by 20 percent, according to a study from the University of Georgia. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to get these benefits—30 minutes of anything that gets you moving does the trick.

Photo by Michael Pettigrew, Fotolia.com

Is It Okay To Be Fat?

February 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm , by

IMG_5615Is it OK to be fat?

It’s not a trick question. The answer isn’t as obvious as it seems.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to watch a taping of a Nightline Face-Off that tackled this very issue. Moderated by Good Morning America news anchor Juju Chang, the debate pitted Marianne Kirby, blogger and advocate for the fat acceptance movement, and Crystal Renn, the highest-paid plus-size model, against Meme Roth, president of the National Action Against Obesity and Kim Bensen, author of Finally Thin. It was a heated discussion, to say the least, and their conversation touched on everything from fat-phobia to anorexia, and from genetics to yo-yo dieting. Watch the show here.

But back to the question at hand: Is it OK to be fat? I think we have to first look at what do we mean by “OK”? (Is it healthy to be fat? Is it somehow morally or socially wrong to be fat, and therefore okay to discriminate against those who are?) Second, how are we defining “fat”? (Waist size? Percentage body fat? BMI?)

However, let’s put semantics aside and look at the science. On the one hand: People who are overweight tend to live longer than their skinnier counterparts, according to McGill researchers. On the other hand: Living longer isn’t much of an advantage if your quality of life is compromised. We also know that being overweight or obese (as defined by BMI) increases your odds for diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, arthritis, sleep apnea and more. On the one hand: You can be fit and fat. Half of overweight people and one-third of obese people still have healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, says a 2008 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Meanwhile, a quarter of normal-weight individuals were found to have two risk factors for heart disease. On the other hand: It’s better to be fit and trim than fit and fat. Active women with normal BMI have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who exercise and are overweight, says another study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

So what do you think? Are Americans fat-phobic? Is it okay to be fat?

Photo (left to right): Emily Chau, Marianne Kirby, Juju Chang, Kim Bensen, Meme Roth