The answer can be summarized in one word: moderation.
You may have been struck by the amount of recent press generated by two studies — one on diet soda (the researchers say it may increase the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women) and the other on saturated fat (it doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease, according to the study). If you were to take the studies at face value, you’d likely give up all diet soda and start eating butter and maybe more red meat, too. But not so fast.
Let’s jump quickly to the bottom line: More research is needed in both areas, as the researchers behind both of these studies admit.
On the South Beach Diet we have always encouraged moderation when it comes to your food choices. By the time your reach Phase 3, and have achieved your weight loss goal, no food is off-limits, including butter, if you choose to enjoy a little of it from time to time. And diet soda, also in moderation, is an option on all Phases. But keep in mind that it’s just that, an option. There are certainly many other drinks you can choose instead, water being the healthiest of all, of course.
at the Big Picture
As a preventive cardiologist, I am always interested in any new nutritional science that relates to heart health, but I always have to look at the bigger picture too. In the case of the study on diet soda, which was presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology this past weekend (but is not yet published and may never be), the results are speculative and need corroboration. The study showed that postmenopausal women (average age 62.8) with no history of cardiovascular disease who drank two or more 12-ounce diet drinks a day were slightly more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problems, or suffer death from any cause, than those who rarely or never consumed diet drinks.
Sure you can have a diet soda now and then, or even a pat of butter (preferably once you’ve reached a healthy weight). But as with so many things in life: Just don’t overdo it.