Archive for March, 2015

Experts Admit Conspiracy Theorists Right About Rigged Stock Market

Mac Slavo
Activist Post

Are there really secret manipulations of the economy going on in the shadows of Wall Street and Washington?

Do bears crap in the woods?

The NY Post’s controversial columnist John Crudele has thrown down the gauntlet, declaring that the market is rigged. And not only does everyone know it, but it is now being admitted.
The stock market is rigged.

When I started making that claim years ago — and provided solid evidence — people scoffed. Some called it a conspiracy theory, tinfoil hats and that sort of stuff. Most people just ignored me.

But that’s not happening anymore. The dirty secret is out.

Ed Yardeni, a longtime Wall Street guru who isn’t one of the clowns of the bunch, said flat out last week that the market was being propped up. “These markets are all rigged, and I don’t say that critically. I just say that factually,” he asserted on CNBC.

Yardeni’s claim is the most basic one: that the Federal Reserve won’t do anything that will upset Wall Street and, in fact, is doing all it can to help the stock market.

So the Federal Reserve is propping up Wall Street, and the economy by extension, not only by issuing free money through QE3, but buying up bonds and shares as well.

This form of manipulation extends globally, with many other central banks propping up the market, and even the U.S. government… as a means of covert proxy investment:
The Bank of Japan — and other central bankers around the world — could easily be purchasing shares of American companies to help out the US stock market.

And Japan could even be doing it with the blessing of Washington, which is afraid any direct intervention in equities on its part would be discovered by nosy people like me.

Last fall, we learned that one American exchange has made intervention in — rigging — foreign governments easier and cheaper to accomplish. In October, it emerged that CME Group, the Chicago exchange that trades options and commodities, had an incentive program under which foreign central banks could buy stock market derivatives like the Standard & Poor’s futures contracts at a discount.
According to Crudele, Japan is encouraging its private sector engage in the shadow market boosting as well – you know, for the greater good.
That’s called rigging the market for a higher purpose, or hoping people who can afford to invest in stocks will make lots of money and spend it.
Underneath it all, the market rigging creates unfair advantage by operating under false pretenses:
The bigger problem is this: If stock prices are artificially inflated, nobody can tell what a company is really worth.”
Recently, SHTF reported that former SEC director John Ramsay also admitted the market is rigged, stating “Today’s rules have been crafted to the benefit of insiders.”

The same article cited an author following the manipulations of Wall Street:
The market is rigged against retail investors, has questioned the tactics involved in using algorithms to buy and sell shares in fractions of a second.
Of course, if we listened to comedians instead of experts, we would have known that long ago.

The late George Carlin said it better than anyone probably could: “The game is rigged!”

You can read more from Mac Slavo at his site SHTFplan.com, where this article first appeared.

Russia Has Constructed Massive Underground Shelters In Anticipation Of Nuclear War

Did you know that the Russians have a massive underground complex in the Ural mountains that has been estimated to be approximately 400 square miles in size? In other words, it is roughly as big as the area inside the Washington D.C. beltway. Back in the 1990s, the Clinton administration was deeply concerned about the construction of this enormous complex deep inside Yamantau mountain, but they could never seem to get any straight answers from the Russians. The command center for this complex is rumored to be 3,000 feet directly straight down from the summit of this giant rock quartz mountain. And of course U.S. military officials will admit that there are dozens of other similar sites throughout Russia, although most of them are thought to be quite a bit smaller. But that is not all that the Russians have been up to. For example, Russian television has reported that 5,000 new emergency nuclear bomb shelters were scheduled to have been completed in the city of Moscow alone by the end of 2012. Most Americans don’t realize this, but the Russians have never stopped making preparations for nuclear war. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has essentially done nothing to prepare our citizens for an attack. The assumption seems to be that a nuclear attack will probably never happen, and that if it does it will probably mean the end of our civilization anyway. Needless to say, the Russians are very secretive about their massive underground facility at Yamantau mountain, and no American has ever been inside. The following is what Wikipedia has to say about it…

Large excavation projects have been observed by U.S. satellite imagery as recently as the late 1990s, during the time of Boris Yeltsin’s government after the fall of the Soviet Union. Two garrisons, Beloretsk-15 and Beloretsk-16, were built on top of the facility, and possibly a third, Alkino-2, as well, and became the closed town of Mezhgorye in 1995. They are said to house 30,000 workers each. Repeated U.S. questions have yielded several different responses from the Russian government regarding Mount Yamantaw. They have said it is a mining site, a repository for Russian treasures, a food storage area, and a bunker for leaders in case of nuclear war. Responding to questions regarding Yamantaw in 1996, Russia’s Defense Ministry stated: “The practice does not exist in the Defense Ministry of Russia of informing foreign mass media about facilities, whatever they are, that are under construction in the interests of strengthening the security of Russia.” Large rail lines serve the facility.

Back in 1996, the New York Times reported on the continuing construction of this site. U.S. officials were quite puzzled that the Russians were continuing to build it even though the Cold War was supposedly over at that point…

In a secret project reminiscent of the chilliest days of the cold war, Russia is building a mammoth underground military complex in the Ural Mountains, Western officials and Russian witnesses say. Hidden inside Yamantau mountain in the Beloretsk area of the southern Urals, the project involves the construction of a huge complex served by a railroad, a highway and thousands of workers.

Within the U.S. intelligence community, there was a tremendous amount of debate at that time regarding the purposes of this facility, but what everyone agreed on was that it was going to be absolutely massive…

A report in Sovetskaya Rossiya said the project involves construction of a railroad, a modern highway and towns for tens of thousands of workers and their families. “The complex is as big as the Washington area inside the Beltway,” said an American official familiar with intelligence reports.

A couple of years later, a top U.S. general said that he believed that the complex at Yamantau had “millions of square feet available for underground facilities”…

In 1998, in a rare public comment, then-Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Gen. Eugene Habinger, called Yamantau “a very large complex — we estimate that it has millions of square feet available for underground facilities. We don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing there.” It is believed to be large enough to house 60,000 persons, with a special air filtration system designed to withstand a nuclear, chemical or biological attack. Enough food and water is believed to be stored at the site to sustain the entire underground population for months on end.

A few years after that, in 2003, there was an article in the Washington Post by Bruce G. Blair in which Yamantau was mentioned as a potential key target for U.S. nuclear war planners…

Die-hard [U.S.] nuclear war planners actually have their eyes on targets in Russia and China, including missile silos and leadership bunkers. For these planners, the Cold War never ended. Their top two candidates [i.e., targets] in Russia are located inside the Yamantau and Kosvinsky mountains in the central and southern Urals. Both were huge construction projects begun in the late 1970s, when U.S. nuclear firepower took special aim at the Communist Party’s leadership complex. Fearing a decapitating strike, the Soviets sent tens of thousands of workers to these remote sites, where U.S. spy satellites spotted them still toiling away in the late 1990s.

But the Russians have not just been building giant underground facilities deep in the Urals. They have also been constructing thousands of new underground bomb shelters in major cities such as Moscow. The following is an excerpt from an RT article in 2010…

Nearly 5,000 new emergency bomb shelters will be built in Moscow by 2012 to save people in case of potential attacks. Moscow authorities say the measure is urgent as the shelters currently available in the city can house no more that half of its population. In the last 20 years, the area of air-raid defense has been developed little, and the existing shelters have become outdated. Moreover, they are located mostly in the city center,which makes densely populated Moscow outskirts especially vulnerable in the event of a nuclear attack. In order to resolve the issue, the city has given architects a task to construct a typical model of an easy-to-build shelter that will be located all over the city 10 to 15 meters underneath apartment blocks, shopping centers, sport complexes and parks, as in case of attack people will need to reach the shelters within a minute.

Of course all of this construction cost the Russians a lot of money. One estimate put the cost at “anywhere from half a billion to a billion dollars”…

Though the bunkers are supposed to be designed to shelter the population in the event of a nuclear attack, government officials say it’s only a precaution and they do not expect such an attack or nuclear outbreak (e.g. Chernobyl) to occur. Neither RT or the Russian government provided estimates for the cost of the facilities. A Popular Mechanics article that reviewed a number of different types of bunkers and building practices had varying prices depending on the type of shelter. Since the proposed Russian bunkers would hold roughly 1000 people each (based on the population count and other details), one could estimate that the lowest price point for a bunker this size, with basic necessities like bathrooms and reserve food for a day or two, may run in the area of around $100,000 – $200,000. This would put a conservative price tag for 5000 shelters anywhere from half a billion to a billion dollars. A significant investment, indeed.

So what about us? Has the U.S. government constructed any bunkers for the survival of the general population in the United States? Of course not. In the event of a nuclear war, I guess they just expect pretty much all of us to die. The Russians also recently finished work on a brand new national defense center in Moscow that contains extensive underground facilities…

Russia is launching a new national defense facility, which is meant to monitor threats to national security in peacetime, but would take control of the entire country in case of war. The new top-security, fortified facility in Moscow includes several large war rooms, a brand new supercomputer in the heart of a state-of-the-art data processing center, underground facilities, secret transport routes for emergency evacuation and a helicopter pad, which was deployed for the first time on Nov. 24 on the Moscow River. The Defense Ministry won’t disclose the price tag for the site, but it is estimated at the equivalent of several billion dollars.

In addition, the Russians have also been developing a new anti-ballistic missile system that is designed to keep U.S. nuclear missiles from getting to their targets in the first place. The U.S. doesn’t have anything like the S-500 that is currently being developed by the Russians. At the latest, it is scheduled to be deployed in 2017, but there are rumors that it is already starting to be deployed today. The following comes from military-today.com…

The S-500 is not an upgrade of the S-400, but a new design. It uses a lot of new technology and is superior to the S-400. It was designed to intercept ballistic missiles. It is planned to have a range of 500-600 km and hit targets at altitudes as high as 40 km. Some sources claim that this system is capable of tracking 5-20 ballistic targets and intercepting up to 5-10 ballistic targets simultaneously. It can defeat ballistic missiles traveling at 5-7 kilometers per second. It has been reported that this air defense system can also target low orbital satellites. It is planned that the S-500 will shield Moscow and the regions around it. It will replace the current A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. The S-500 missiles will be used only against the most important targets, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, AWACS and jamming aircraft.

Sadly, most Americans are not interested in this stuff at all. These days, most Americans just assume that the Russians are “our friends” and that a war with Russia could never possibly happen. What they don’t realize is that the Russian people see things very, very differently. Today, 81 percent of Russians have a negative opinion of the United States. Our interference in the conflict in Ukraine has made the Russian people very angry, and there are many over there that now believe that a shooting war with the United States is inevitable. And this week things between the United States and Russia got even more tense. Barack Obama has already announced that we will be sending “non-lethal” military aid to the Ukrainians, but now the U.S. House of Representativeshas overwhelmingly passed a resolution that calls for Obama to send “lethal” military aid to the government in Kiev…

Yesterday, in a vote that largely slid under the radar, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Obama to send lethal aid to Ukraine, providing offensive, not just “defensive” weapons to the Ukraine army – the same insolvent, hyperinflating Ukraine which, with a Caa3/CC credit rating, last week started preparations to issue sovereign debt with a US guarantee, in essence making it a part of the United States (something the US previously did as a favor to Egypt before the Muslim Brotherhood puppet regime was swept from power by the local army). The resolution passed with broad bipartisan support by a count of 348 to 48. According to DW, the measure urges Obama to provide Ukraine with “lethal defensive weapon systems” that would better enable Ukraine to defend its territory from “the unprovoked and continuing aggression of the Russian Federation.” “Policy like this should not be partisan,” said House Democrat Eliot Engel, the lead sponsor of the resolution. “That is why we are rising today as Democrats and Republicans, really as Americans, to say enough is enough in Ukraine.”

If Obama does decide to send lethal military aid to the Ukrainians, the Russians are going to flip out. Sadly, neither side seems very interested in peace at this point. We just continue to take even more steps along the road toward World War III, and it is a war that the United States is completely and utterly unprepared for.

Scientists Reveal Ramen Noodles Cause Heart Disease, Stroke & Metabolic Syndrome

by Natasha Longo

The dangers of ramen noodles are self-evident to most, however there will always be those who will deny the dangers of consuming them. After all, it’s a staple food for college kids so how bad could it be? It can’t kill you right? New research from Baylor University and Harvard says it can. The noodles increase people’s risk of metabolic changes linked to heart disease and stroke, researchers found.

Ramen noodles contain Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), which is a byproduct of the petroleum industry and food additive frequently to preserve cheap processed foods. A gastrointestinal specialist conducted an experiment with a time lapse video inside the stomach to what would happen after two hours of digesting ramen noodles and the results were staggering.

In the most recent study in the Journal of Nutrition, women in South Korea who consumed more of the precooked blocks of dried noodles were more likely to have “metabolic syndrome” regardless of what else they ate, or how much they exercised, the researchers found. People with metabolic syndrome may have high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels, and face an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The dried noodle block was originally created by flash frying cooked noodles, and this is still the main method used in Asian countries, though air-dried noodle blocks are favored in Western countries. The main ingredients of the dried noodle are wheat flour, palm oil, and salt. Common ingredients of the flavoring powder are salt, monosodium glutamate, seasoning, and sugar. A typical cup-type instant noodles contain 2700 mg of sodium.

“Although instant noodle is a convenient and delicious food, there could be an increased risk for metabolic syndrome given [the food’s] high sodium, unhealthy saturated fat and glycemic loads,” said study co-author Hyun Shin, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Shin and his colleagues at Baylor University and Harvard analyzed the health and diet of nearly 11,000 adults in South Korea between ages 19 to 64. The participants reported what they ate, and the researchers categorized each participant’s diet as centered on either traditional healthy food or fast food, as well as how many times weekly they ate instant noodles.

The study focused on individuals in South Korea, Shin said, as the country has the highest per-capita number of instant noodle consumers in the world, and because, in recent years, health problems there, including heart disease and obesity, have been on the rise. But the findings appear to be quite relevant to consumers stateside too, as the United States ranked sixth globally in instant noodle sales, according to the World Instant Noodles Association, which found that the United States accounted for 4,300 billion units sold in 2013 (coming in just behind China, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, and India — and one spot above South Korea, in fact).

Women who ate instant noodles twice a week or more had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome than those who ate ramen less, or not at all, regardless of whether their diet style fell into the traditional or fast-food category. The researchers found the association even among young women who were leaner and reported doing more physical activity.

As for men, Shin and his colleagues guessed that biological differences between the genders, like the effect of sex hormones and metabolism, might account for the lack of an apparent association among males between eating instant noodles and developing metabolic syndrome.

The study was conducted in South Korea, an area known to have the largest ramen consumption group in the world, where people consumed 3.4 billion packages of instant noodles in 2010.

But the findings could apply to people in North American too, said Lisa Young, a nutritionist and professor at New York University who was not involved in the study. “We [in the States] don’t eat it as much, but the ramen noodles are being sold, so this could apply to anywhere they’re sold, and they’re sold almost everywhere.”

So what’s so bad about instant noodles?

“Instant noodles are high in fat, high in salt, high in calories and they’re processed — all those factors could contribute to some of the health problems [the researchers] addressed,” Young said. “That doesn’t mean that every single person is going to respond the same way, but the piece to keep in mind is that it’s not a healthy product, and it is a processed food.”

In June 2012, the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) found Benzopyrene (a cancer causing substance) in six brands of noodles made by Nong Shim Company Ltd. Although the KFDA said the amounts were minuscule and not harmful, Nong Shim did identify particular batches of noodles with a problem, prompting a recall by October 2012.

They also contain TBHQ (Tertiary-butyl hydroquinone) which can have a long term effect on your health such as weakening of organs and contributing to the onset of cancers and tumors.

Processed foods generally contain high amounts of sugar and salt, primarily because they are designed to have long shelf lives.

Above all, however, Young said a little bit of preparation could help people avoid processed instant noodles altogether. “You can easily make noodles, homemade pasta, ground-rice pasta and veggies” at home, with a little bit of planning, she said.

About the author:
Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.

BodyMindSoulSpirit Addendum

by Gregg Prescott, M.S.
Editor, BodyMindSoulSpirit.com

One must also consider how ramen noodle ingredients are processed within the body. Recently, a video went viral when a small internal smart pill camera was ingested before eating ramen noodles. Two hours later, many of the noodles were undigested. One a different day, the test subject ate fresh, homemade ramen noodles and the differences were substantial, showing how the non-processed noodles were more easily digested than the processed ones.

Think about this video whenever you buy ANY processed food. In general, the entire middle section of most grocery stores contain processed foods, while fresh foods are generally found on the outside perimeter of any given supermarket.

When in doubt, always buy organic or grow your own food from organic seeds!

FDA approves Viagra

On this day in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves use of the drug Viagra, an oral medication that treats impotence.

Sildenafil, the chemical name for Viagra, is an artificial compound that was originally synthesized and studied to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a form of cardiovascular disease). Chemists at the Pfizer pharmaceutical company found, however, that while the drug had little effect on angina, it could induce penile erections, typically within 30 to 60 minutes. Seeing the economic opportunity in such a biochemical effect, Pfizer decided to market the drug for impotence. Sildenafil was patented in 1996, and a mere two years later–a stunningly short time compared to other drugs–it was approved by the FDA for use in treating “erectile dysfunction,” the new clinical name for impotence. Though unconfirmed, it is believed the drug was invented by Peter Dunn and Albert Wood.

Viagra’s massive success was practically instantaneous. In the first year alone, the $8-$10 pills yielded about a billion dollars in sales. Viagra’s impact on the pharmaceutical and medical industries, as well as on the public consciousness, was also enormous. Though available by prescription only, Viagra was marketed on television, famously touted by ex-presidential candidate Bob Dole, then in his mid-70s. Such direct-to-consumer marketing was practically unprecedented for prescription drugs (now, sales and marketing account for approximately 30 percent of the pharmaceutical industry’s costs, in some cases more than research and development). The drug was also offered over the internet–customers needed only to fill out an “online consultation” to receive samples.

An estimated 30 million men in the United States suffer from erectile dysfunction and a wave of new Viagra competitors, among them Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil), has blown open the market. Drug companies are now not just targeting older men like Dole, but men in their 30s and 40s, too. As with many drugs, the long-term effects of Viagra on men’s health are still unclear (Viagra does carry warnings for those who suffer from heart trouble), but its popularity shows no signs of slowing. To date, over 20 million Americans have tried it, and that number is sure to increase as the baby boomer population continues to age.

California AG asks court to stop ‘Sodomite Suppression Act

If the court does not grant her a special exemption, California’s Attorney General may be obligated by law to process a ballot initiative that would legalize the killing of homosexuals.

Named the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” the initiative calls for putting to death “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification.”

Under California law, the Attorney General’s Office has the responsibility to prepare and issue all submitted ballot initiatives, releasing them to the public for signature gathering.

“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement Wednesday, asking the court to relieve her from the obligation to process the proposal.

“If the Court does not grant this relief, my office will be forced to issue a title and summary for a proposal that seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism,” Harris added.

Submitted by Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, the initiative reads: “Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating-wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

The proposal also declares that individuals who distribute “sodomistic” propaganda “shall be fined $1 million per occurrence, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from the boundaries of the state of California for up to life.”

California has practiced direct democracy through referenda since 1849. Ballot proposition initiatives were introduced in 1911. A ballot initiative that collects enough signatures – currently five percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election, or 365,880 – becomes a Proposition and will be put before voters in the November general elections.

“My understanding is that once you’ve paid your fee, submitted your language, the Attorney General is obligated to write a title and summary,” Bakersfield political consultant Stan Harper, who has written several of his own ballot initiatives, told local KBAK/KBFX News.

“Once you sign these, your name goes to the registrar of voters, and anybody can look up your name to see what petitions you’ve signed,” Harper added.

Meanwhile, community activist Charlotte Laws has submitted her own ballot initiative, dubbed the ‘Intolerant Jackass Act.’ It parodies the language of McLaughlin’s proposal and calls for “any person who brings forward a ballot measure that suggests the killing of gays or lesbians” to be punished by having to donate $5000 to a “pro-gay” or “pro-lesbian” organization and undergo three days of “sensitivity training” each month for a year.

Chinese restaurant in Kenya ‘locks out’ Africans after 5pm

A Chinese restaurant in the Kenyan capital does not admit Africans after 5pm, insisting they pose a security threat to its clients. The staff cites criminal situations and the activities of terrorist group Al Shabaab.

An eatery in Nairobi named the “Chinese Restaurant” has taken the decision after an armed robbery last year and recent warnings from the Chinese embassy over Al Shabaab’s increased threat, local media report.

READ MORE: US drone strike kills top Al-Shabaab leader

“We don’t admit Africans that we don’t know because you never know who is Al-Shabaab and who isn’t,” Esther Zhao, a PR manager with the restaurant, told the Nairobi News. “It is not like it is written on somebody’s face that they are a thug armed with a gun.”

Zhao says the guests of the restaurant feel safer and more comfortable if African customers are kept away. Only taxi drivers and Africans accompanied by European, Chinese or Indian guests can be admitted.

“It is strictly a no-African policy and we have even had to turn away some prominent Kenyans who were obviously not a security threat,” a restaurant worker told the journalists on conditions of anonymity.

According to the Nairobi News, those locked out included the former Cabinet Secretary for the Interior Joseph ole Lenku, and former education secretary and presidential candidate Joseph ole Kiyiapi.

However, some Africans considered “loyal” can still come in. You have to spend 20,000 Kenyan shilling (about $217) in a certain time period to qualify. The only people allowed in any time are Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko and former Cabinet Minister Raphael Tuju, who are reportedly the owner’s friends.

The move caused an outrage in the media and among local politicians.

“That amounts to racial and ethnic profiling, which is unconstitutional,” said the country’s ombudsman, Otiende Amollo. “It has in it the inherent assumption that Africans are inevitably pre-disposed to be robbers… Whatever measures they choose to take to maintain security must be measures that treat people equally irrespective of race, gender or color.”

The ombudsman called the people who were not admitted to sue for discrimination and contact the National Commission on Human Rights so that the authorities could revoke the restaurant’s license.

Al-Shabaab, translated as the “The Youth,” is an Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US. Its basic goal is to create a caliphate in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab’s terrorist activities most notably included coordinated suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital in 2010 and a deadly raid on a Nairobi mall in 2013.

What diet soda does to belly fat

Mandy Oaklander/Time

A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that people who drank diet soda gained almost triple the abdominal fat over nine years as those who didn’t drink diet soda. The study analyzed data from 749 people ages 65 and older who were asked, every couple of years, how many cans of soda they drank a day, and how many of those sodas were diet or regular.

Those answers ended up being extremely predictive of abdominal-fat gain, even after the researchers adjusted for factors like diabetes, smoking and levels of physical activity. People who didn’t drink diet soda gained about 0.8 in. around their waists over the study period, but people who drank diet soda daily gained 3.2 in. Those who fell in the middle — occasional drinkers of diet soda — gained about 1.8 in.

That change in waist circumference is especially concerning because it highlights an unfortunate truth about weight distribution: the belly is a bad place for extra pounds. The kind that pads the abs from the inside, called visceral fat, is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, inflammation and Type 2 diabetes.

These results, which the study authors call “striking,” add to the growing body of evidence that no- and low-calorie sweeteners may come with health concerns. Though scientists are still puzzling through the mechanisms by which diet soda seems to have the unintended consequence of weight gain, they have some ideas. Sugar-free sodas contain substances that sweeten up soda at 200-600 times the sweetness of sugar.

“Regular sugar has caloric consequences,” says the study’s senior author Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. And one of those is that it triggers satiety — a sense of fullness or satisfaction. “Your body is used to knowing that a sweet taste means you are ingesting energy in the form of calories that, if you don’t burn them off, is going to convert to fat,” she says. Artificial sweeteners, however, confuse our bodies and weaken the link in our brains between sweetness and calories. That, Hazuda says, can lead to weight gain and cravings for sweeter and sweeter treats.

There may be something else at work. A recent study in mice showed that artificial sweeteners actually changed the gut bacteria of mice in ways that made them vulnerable to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance — both of which can lead to weight gain. And other mice research suggests that artificial sweeteners are associated with a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, Hazuda says. Leptin is the hormone that inhibits hunger.

The Calorie Control Council, an association that represents the reduced-calorie food and beverage industry — including alternative sweeteners — disagreed with the study’s findings. “The use of low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs) in weight management has been shown to be beneficial,” the group said in a statement. “While approaches to treat obesity in older individuals is controversial, diet modifications can be a successful part of a weight-management program for older adults.”

Researchers in the new study found that belly-fat gain was most pronounced in people who were already overweight. “People who are already at cardiometabolic risk because they have higher BMIs are really in double or triple jeopardy,” Hazuda says. “When they think they’re doing something good by drinking artificially sweetened beverages, it’s actually totally counterproductive.”