Are Diet Drinks Healthy for Seniors?

(11/19/12)- We at therubins recently received a query from one of our web site readers related to the consumption of diet drinks by seniors in our society.

We began researching this topic and found that the Department of Health and Human Services as part of The National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) had collected data on this topic and had published results in NCHS Data Brief #109, Oct. 2012.

The data that indicated "about one-fifth of the U. S. population consumed diet drinks on a given day." (NCHS Data Brief) and 10.7% had consumed more than 16 fluid ounces on a given day.

Their definition of diet drinks included calorie-free and low-calorie versions of soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and carbonated water. They reported that "[D]iet drink consumption differed by age, race and ethnicity and income.

For example, the percentage of non-Hispanic white children and adults who consumed diet drinks was higher than for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children and adults and the percentage of higher income person who consumed diet drinks was higher than for lower income persons".

This survey is conducted in the individual's home and a standard physical examination is conducted at a mobile examination center. The interviewees are asked to recall their dietary intake for the 24-hour period prior to their interview. They report a response rate of 77.3% to the examination portion of the survey.

For the age group that the question was directed, the results indicated that 23.5% of males and 23.1% of females 60 and over consumed diet drinks on a given day. The age group with the highest percentage of consumption of diet drinks was the 40-59 year olds. The figures are 25.6% for males and 28.3 % for females.

In general, there has been "a linear increase in the percentage of females and males who consume diet drinks in a given day over the12 years studied in this report". The authors of this report also cite that this increase was mirrored by "a decrease in consumption of added sugar calories in regular soda over a similar time period". The implications of these statements being that diet drinks may have replaced sugar drinks as result of a population more concerned about weight loss in the short term.

While this may be the goal, research has also suggested that the population has shown a weight increase (obesity rates are rising). The nation will have to deal with this problem in the long run if it wants to contain health costs. This is an issue that will continue to unfold in the coming years.

"How to Select a Nursing Home"

by Harold Rubin, MS, ABD, CRC, guest lecturer
posted November 19, 2012