Can drinking diet soda increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke?
Weight loss scale
Credit: Lee Harrelson

Research from a massive, multi-generational study following residents of Framingham, Massachusetts (which included about 6000 middle-aged men and women observed over 4 years) showed that adults who drink one or more sodas a day, diet or regular, had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that include excessive fat around the waist, low levels of the "good" HDL cholesterol, and high blood pressure. People with metabolic syndrome are at double the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Other studies in the past have linked consumption of regular sodas with multiple risk factors for heart disease, but this is the first time one has linked diet sodas. Is it that no-calorie sweet-tasting drinks increase the craving for more sweets, and/or that people who indulge in sodas may have less healthy diets overall? Another theory states that the substance that gives soda its caramel color may promote insulin resistance. Lots of theories, but regardless, the results are surprising. These 6000 people from Framingham all started out in the study healthy and with no signs of metabolic syndrome.

So what should you do if you're a soda fan? It goes back to that well-worn concept of moderation–in all things, even our diet sodas. And maybe it's time to take a second look at water, the original and best fluid for our bodies.

For more healthy ways to stay hydrated:

Tammy Beasley, RD, CSSD, CEDRD is a registered, licensed dietitian, spinning instructor, and certified specialist in sports nutrition and eating disorders. She is the author of Rev It Up-The Lifestyle Diet That Puts You In The Driver's Seat.