Apr 092008
Authors: Maggie Canty

When it comes to our health, sometimes we just can’t win.

We’re told that the sugar in pop makes us fat, which could lead to heart attack, which could lead to death. So we switch to diet soda, but then hear that the sugar substitute leads to cancer, which also leads to death.

So what they’re actually saying is drink water or die.

In a study recently published by Purdue University psychologists, a group of rats were given saccharin-sweetened yogurt while others were given yogurt sweetened with regular sugar.

What they found is the rats given the lower calorie, sugar substituted yogurt, tended to eat more and eventually gain more weight.

This put them at a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome – which puts them at a greater risk for coronary heart disease.

Which is exactly what most diet soda drinkers are trying to avoid.

Most of us have probably also heard that sugar substitutes, like the kind found in diet drinks, are linked to cancer.

So with all these health risks involved, why isn’t Diet Coke labeled lethal?

The answer is because as of right now, most speculations about fake sugars are just that – speculations.

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, the National Cancer Institute has found no scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners cause or increase risk of cancer – at least the ones approved for use in the U.S.

And if we trusted every study done with lab rats, we’d have a lot more than pop to worry about.

Some dieticians even recommend consuming diet over regular drinks, in order to reduce the amount of sugar in one’s diet.

Elizabeth Long, a registered dietician at McKe Medical Center in Loveland, said that sugar substitutes, including the ones found in diet sodas, are fine to consume, in moderation.

She said the tests done with rats are often misleading due to the amount of substance given to the animal – often more than humanly possible to consume.

“All the artificial sweeteners found on the market are regarded as safe, and approved by the FDA,” she said.

And with a billion dollar industry supported by millions of Americans, it’s obvious there’s something about these sugar impersonators that we like.

However, just because they may be safe and widely consumed, doesn’t mean they’re the solution to that floatation device you’re growing around your abdomen.

When you order a super-sized double cheeseburger and fries, the only thing a diet soda will do is confuse the drive-thru operator.

Like any food or beverage, it’s all about moderation. Diet soda, and other drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners, can be part of a healthy lifestyle – as long as it isn’t all you drink.

And no, drinking diet instead of regular is no excuse to finish the box of Oreos.

But you were probably going to do that anyway.

Entertainment Editor Maggie Canty can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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