The biggest health danger you can’t see

As you age, you face an increasing risk of an insidious metabolic problem: inflammation. But everywhere you look, ads filled with friendly faces are trying to sell you more of this heart-endangering condition.

That’s because, soft drink companies are trying to persuade you to drink more diet soda.

But a study at the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio shows that the more diet soda you drink, the more you risk inflammation from visceral fat – fat inside your body around your organs. This isn’t a fat you can necessarily see, either. You can appear thin but still have visceral fat on the inside.

Visceral fat collects around your internal organs and traps toxins that are then stored right next to your heart and liver, for example. This is much more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which is the kind that’s just beneath your skin. Visceral fat stimulates an immune response that increases your chances of heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes and dying younger.

The current research entailed an analysis of health data called the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA). Scientists found that in people age 65 and older, the more diet soda they drank, the more visceral fat they produced and the greater their risk of serious inflammation. (Their waistlines were also bigger.)

Visceral fat pumps out inflammatory molecules called cytokines – for example, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 – that contribute to chronic disease, especially heart disease.

Lab tests at Yale have shown that this inflammatory fat also interferes with your liver function and makes you more prone to high blood sugar. What that means is that even though there may be no sugar in your soft drink, by drinking artificially sweetened concoctions, you still end up with extra sugar in your bloodstream!

Do yourself a favor, if you want a no-cal drink, stay away from inflammatory diet sodas. Instead, drink filtered water. If you need it to have some flavor, you can cut up some fruit or even cucumbers and leave them in the water overnight. The next day you’ll have a naturally-flavored non-caloric drink. Or, as we’ve noted before, indulge in coconut water, a drink that has a lot of health benefits.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.