You would think that diet soda would be a better choice for weight control than its sweetened cousin regular soda, but according to a recent study, this might not be the case.

For 10 years data was collected about several hundred (749) Mexican Americans over 65 and European Americans over age 60. And like about a fifth of the American population who drank a diet soda on any given day, daily diet soda drinkers, along with occasional diet soda drinkers, gained almost three times as much belly fat as abstainers. Things which might have influenced the results such as age, exercise and smoking were accounted for.

The results are very sobering: On the average diet soda drinkers added almost an inch to their waist size, while nondrinkers added much less. Daily diet soda consumers added an astounding 1.19 inches to their belly fat over the study period.

Why should we care? Well, belly fat is the kind of fat which is the most dangerous. Too much of this kind of fat leads to heart attacks, diabetes and greater likelihood of dying.

What is fascinating is that at least in this study and one other one as well, diet soda rather that regular soda was more likely to cause obesity. It might be that diet drinkers think that heck, this has no calories so why not pig out on that triple cheeseburger? Others have suggested that ingredients such as artificial sweeteners change the gut flora, which in turns leads to obesity.

Yes this is a population based study, which as the beverage industry loves to point out, cause and effect can not be proven; rather just association. Sure other factors could have caused the obesity. Yet, for me it makes a lot of sense to simply stop all sodas diet or otherwise. Drink plenty of water (and it doesn’t have to be bottled), perhaps the occasional unsweetened fruit juice and get out and exercise.