Interesting article in the NY Times today: Metabolic Syndrome linked with Diet Soda
Metabolic syndrome (which was originally called 'syndrome X' about ten years ago) is a cluster of abnormalities that are commonly found in people who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. This includes 'being an apple' - having a large abdominal girth (more than 35 inches in women) or a high girth to hip ratio (researchers are finding that there are a lot of hormones in fat tissue which increase the problems), high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol and very importantly, insulin resistance. When people have high levels of glucose in the blood stream, the receptors in cells - which regulate how much glucose can get into the cell through the action of insulin - shut down. Too much glucose in the cell can actually poison the cell. When the diminishing of the cell receptors, glucose rates continue high in the blood, even when the amount of insulin in the blood is normal or even high.
The low term consequences of metabolic syndrome is a higher rate of hardening of the arteries and a higher rate of heart problems. And people go on to become diabetic.
When I was working in a clinic in California - where about 1/3 of my patients had diabetes - we all observed that all the diabetes carried around the super-gulp size of diet drinks. I guess we were right in our observations. The article questioned whether there is some chemical in the soft drinks that might be responsible or whether there are other factors in the behaviors of diet soda drinkers. It could be the belief that by cutting down on calories in this way, they can eat more.