Soda and Metabolic Syndrome

July 15, 2007

Soda and Metabolic Syndrome 

 Competency #3 Metabolism and #11 Sugar                 Reference: Circulation. 2008 Feb 12; 117(6):754-61. NBC News, ABC News, 

Front page of the Journal Sentinel.  This news sure hit the media today.  Goodness, and what interesting news.  The Framingham Heart Study is particularly good because it has been following 5209 people since 1948.  That’s a large number for a long time.  The short and sweet message is all about the sweet in soda.  Drinking sugared sodas leads to the development of metabolic syndrome.  We sort of knew that because of the extra sugar in “high test” fully-sugared sodas.  

Interestingly enough, drinking DIET SODA also was correlated with developing metabolic syndrome.  If you drink an average of one soda a day, you have a 48 % higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome.  The more you drink, the higher the risk. What’s going on?  The authors admit they don’t know for sure.  The observation is that there is a strong association between a “lifestyle” of drinking more soda and developing metabolic syndrome.  They mention other possibilities like the possible presence of a chemical effect from caramel, or advanced glycation products, but reach no conclusions.  

I would hazard a guess that a lifestyle of drinking sweet sodas leads to a lifestyle of liking sweet things.  And I bet your brain puts out signals that you just tasted something sweet, setting in motion things we haven't been able to measure yet.   It only takes 50 extra calories a day to gain 5 lbs a year.  Some sweet things are “diet”, but others are pieces of chocolate cake. Your understanding what metabolic syndrome is, however, is important.  Metabolic syndrome is the precursor to heart disease, vascular disease, stroke, diabetes.  About 75% of us are dying from the cluster of complications that follow these illnesses, which are all preceded by years of “metabolic syndrome”.  

You get the label of having it if you have three of the following:  a) men’s waist is over 40 inches, women’s over 35, b) fasting blood sugar is over 100, c) serum triglycerides over 150, d)  blood pressure over 135/85,  e)  HDLs under 40 (men), 50 (women).  Metabolic syndrome HAS NO SYMPTOMS.  You are just middle-aged and slightly plump.  Pleasantly plump.  Internally, you are burning away.  Your arteries are rotting.  The clock is ticking until the time comes when something breaks loose from an injured artery and your heart attack presents itself with sudden death, or stroke.  The proverbial horse is out of the barn.  

The time to act is now.  We know that drinking calories does not make you feel full.  Your internal measure of appetite is not satisfied by liquid calories.  It would seem to make sense that you could then simply get away from the conundrum by drinking diet calories.   This study challenges that.  Drinking sweet stuff probably leads to liking and wanting more sweet stuff.  I know that's true with me. 

 WWW.  What Will Work for Me.  I’m a can-a-day kind of guy.  This study was about me, and you.  This study tells me I make my personal hill harder to climb if I keep exposing myself to sweet stuff.  And I love sugar, of all kinds.  I have been drinking more water recently, mostly because I’m cheap and don’t like the cost.  16 oz of cold-brewed Lake Michigan, straight up, might be the drink of choice.  It’s probably the better habit. More importantly, I’ve made my annual date with my doctor.  My blood sugar is right at 100, my waist size has only recently dropped below 40, my blood pressure is 130/78, my HDLs are 39, my triglycerides were 130 last year.  (How many risk factors do I have: count.... Blood sugar 100 and HDL of 39)...Ok, I get 2 risk factors.  I’m only one away from a “label” of Metabolic Syndrome.  I would like to get down to 1 risk factor this year.  My goal.  Join me.  Seek your doctor, get your risks evaluated.  Let's support each other and get rid of one each.

This column is written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)