New research suggests artificial sweeteners no help in battle against obesity.

Well this just fucking sucks:

Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center 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.”

via Waistlines in people, glucose levels in mice hint at sweeteners’ effects: Related studies point to the illusion of the artificial.

I’ve said before that as a younger man I used to swear that I’d never switch to diet pop because it tasted so awful. Then I hit my early 30’s and got married and my daughter came to live with me and I suddenly was responsible for a lot more than just myself. So when the doctor told me I was borderline diabetic and suggested I switch from regular to diet pop to help me lose weight I took to heart that advice. It took awhile to make the switch, but I eventually did and it did make a difference, at first. I lost close to 40 lbs only to gain it all back within the year.

Given the findings of these studies, I’m not surprised by the the return of the weight:

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. The researchers compared long-term change in waist circumference for diet soda users versus non-users in all follow-up periods. The results were adjusted for waist circumference, diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level, neighborhood of residence, age and smoking status at the beginning of each interval, as well as sex, ethnicity and years of education.

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.

Given that I’ve cut way back on the amount of sugar I consume I have been surprised to find that my glucose levels still showed as high on blood tests where I’d been fasting beforehand. If the research on mice is any indication then I now know why:

One group of the mice ate chow to which both aspartame and corn oil were added; the other group ate chow with the corn oil added but not the aspartame. After three months on this high-fat diet, the mice in the aspartame group showed elevated fasting glucose levels but equal or diminished insulin levels, consistent with early declines in pancreatic beta-cell function. The difference in insulin levels between the groups was not statistically significant. Beta cells make insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar after a meal. Imbalance ultimately leads to diabetes.

“These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans,” Dr. Fernandes said.

Well fuck me.

I’ve been working on not drinking as much soda for awhile now, but I’m still not a huge fan of drinking water and it’s difficult to find anything other than water to drink when dining out so I’m still consuming some diet soda on a regular basis. But I am doing better. I regularly have at least two cups of water at work and a couple more at home in the course of a day. Now I guess I’ll have to make an effort to cut out diet pop altogether.

Which is upsetting because a good cold soda is one of life’s little pleasures on a hot summer day. Something that a cold glass of water just doesn’t compare to. But I’ll suck it up and put my big-boy pants on and just deal with it.

But I’m still going to pout about it.