Purdue prof explains link between diet sodas, diabetes

It may be best to skip the soda altogether.

Plenty of us reach for a diet soda believing that it's better than drinking its sugary counterpart. But a new study could change your habits.

Susie Swithers of Purdue University published the study that suggests people who drink diet sodas frequently are at higher risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovasuclar disease.

Read the study here.

Prof. Swithers joined Eyewitness News at Noon to explain the results of her study.

"The science says that people who drink one diet soda a day compared to people who don't drink diet sodas have significantly increased risk not only of becoming overweight or obese but also for being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, having coronary heart disease, metabolic syndrome and stroke - which are all things that kill people in the United States," she said.

People who consume diet drinks figure zero calories will help them keep weight off. Swithers points to studies that have tracked people in the United States and in other countries over the course of up to 25 years.

"People who are drinking what they think is really not that much soda - one a day - end up having these risk problems. That risk is very similar to people who are drinking diet sodas and who are drinking regular sodas," she said.

So what's the message? Swithers says it has less to do with diet or regular sodas and a lot more to do with not drinking soda of any kind on a regular basis. Make it a "once in a while" thing, not an everyday habit.

Swithers says there are a number of studies that point to a link between regular diet soda consumption and diabetes. She says those studies track people over a "significantly long period of time" and that those people are at a considerably higher risk for developing diabetes if they consume diet soda on a regular basis.

While the risks have been known for a while, the new information is "pulling all of this stuff together to get an estimate of how big the risks actually are. When these individual studies come out, they tend to be dismissed and people think, 'oh, this is only because unhealthy people drink diet sodas in the first place.' But really what we did was put a lot of information together to give people an idea of how strong the science has become," she said.