Diet Soda, Ice Cream, Rape & The Press

A story that has been getting a lot of play today is titled “Diet sodas linked to obesity.” Here’s the crux of the piece:

“Just when you thought the news about losing weight couldn’t get any worse, try this: A review of 26 years of patient data found that people who drink diet soft drinks were more likely to become overweight.

Not only that, but the more diet sodas they drank, the higher their risk of later becoming overweight or obese – 65 percent more likely for each diet drink per day.

The findings, the latest from the long-term San Antonio Heart Study, took even the researchers by surprise.

“I was baffled,” said Sharon Fowler, a faculty associate at the University of Texas Health Science Center, who presented the data Saturday at the American Diabetes Association’s 65th Annual Scientific Sessions in San Diego, Calif.

Researchers looked at questionnaires and medical records for 1,177 patients who began enrolling in the study in 1979. All had weights considered either normal or overweight, but not obese.”

Know what this reminds me of? Ice cream and rape. Why so? Let me explain…I was a psych major in college and one of the things we studied was how to determine cause and effect in a study. You would think that would be easy, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Which brings us back to ice cream and rape. Did you know that there is a high correlation between ice cream sales and reported rapes? So, does eating ice cream cause rape? No, there’s actually a third factor, temperature, which correlates with both. In the summer, when it gets hot, ice cream sales go up and the number of rapes increases as well.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure that people who are overweight or gaining weight will likely switch from regular soft drinks to diet soft drinks in order to cut calories. But, that doesn’t mean the diet soda is CAUSING the weight gain. My guess is that you’d find a correlation between the percentage of body fat a person has and how likely they are to buy slim fast or diet food as well, but that doesn’t mean that the weight loss products in turn cause a person’s weight to rise.

Even the people working on the study admit this may be the case:

“Fowler is quick to note that a study of this kind does not prove that diet soda causes obesity. More likely, she says, it shows that something linked to diet soda drinking is also linked to obesity.”

Ok, so why are we seeing stories like “Diet sodas linked to obesity,” “Diet Soda Drinkers Gain Weight,”Drink Diet Soda And Gain Weight?,” & “Drink More Diet Soda, Gain More Weight?”

These sort of headlines could cost soda companies tens of millions of dollars — and even force companies to lay workers off — because dieters may errantly conclude that drinking a zero calorie beverage may make them gain weight.

So shouldn’t the press be more responsible in the way they handle these sorts of stories?

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