PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If you usually go for diet soda instead of regular to cut out a few calories, you may want to rethink your strategy.

Many people cut calories to lose weight. Because a lot of calories come from sugary drinks, some switch to the low-calorie diet version.

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“It’s something I started to do when I tried to lose weight. I’m not sure it always works that well, but I enjoy it,” says one man.

“It just depends what I feel like drinking, diet or regular,” says a woman.

“It’s calories that seem kind of empty and not something I need,” remarks another man.

Triple the abdominal fat — that’s what researchers found among nearly 750 people over 65 who drank diet soda compared to people who did not drink diet soda, even when the researchers took into account diabetes, smoking, and exercise.

In other words, point eight inches around the waist for non-diet drinkers versus 3.2 inches for habitual diet soda drinkers. Occasional consumers of diet drinks gained 1.8 inches.

“I personally had a diet soda habit back in my 20s. I always say, I know how tough this stuff is. It is addictive,” says Kathy Parry, of Your Real Food Coach.

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Three thoughts as to why this is:

1. Diet soda changes the bacteria in our intestines, which changes our metabolism.

2. The sweetness tricks the pancreas into making too much hormone too often.

“Insulin tells us to store fat,” says Parry.

.3. And perhaps the diet drinks trick our minds into splurging on calories elsewhere.

“I actually do recommend real soda,” advises Parry. “If you’re trying to wean yourself off of a soda habit, you’re better to stick with something your body understands. Your body knows how to process sugar.”

Abdominal fat — the kind that surrounds your vital organs — goes with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.

If it’s caffeine you’re craving, coffee or tea may be a better alternative to soda. If you want the sweetness, water with a splash of fruit juice may be all you need.

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