Drinking one or more carbonated beverages a day even diet soft drinks can increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, according to new research.

Metabolic syndrome, in turn, is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

According to investigators working on the Framingham Heart Study, consuming one of more sodas per day increases the risk of metabolic syndrome by 45 percent. They say whether the soda is regular or sugar-free doesnt seem to matter.

The investigators observed that compared to consumers who drank less than one can per day, subjects who drank one or more soft drinks daily had a:

• 31 per cent greater risk of becoming obese
• 30 per cent increased risk of adding on belly fat.
• 25 per cent higher risk of developing high blood sugar.
• 32 per cent higher risk of having low HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous condition because it is made up of a lot of bad things; excess fat, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and low HDL. Not surprisingly, researchers say having metabolic syndrome will double your odds of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Canadian health researcher Dr. David Jenkins, director of the Risk Factor Modification Center at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, said the new research changes previous perceptions about acceptable ways to reduce calories.

In the past, having a diet soda with a meal was seen as a good way to reduce overall calories. Now, he says, that has to be reconsidered.

But exactly why drinking soda even diet soda increases the metabolic syndrome risk has yet to be answered.

The researchers who completed the study of nearly 9,000 middle age people say they are unable to provide an answer. They suggest, however, that people who drink a lot of diet soda may be consuming lots of calories from other sources.