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Diet drinks ‘no more helpful’ than full sugar drinks

Sugar-free and diet drinks are often seen as the healthier option, however researchers from Imperial College London have argued that they are no more helpful for maintaining a healthy weight than their full-sugar versions.

In a commentary on current research and policy into sweetened drinks, academics from Imperial College London and two Brazilian universities (University of Sao Paulo and Federal University of Pelotas) argued that sugar-free versions of drinks may be no better for weight loss or preventing weight gain than their full sugar counterparts, and may also be detrimental to the environment.

Artificially-sweetened beverages (ASBs) are alternatives to full-sugared drinks. They contain no sugar and are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead. ASBs are often known as diet versions of soft drinks, and may be perceived by consumers as the healthier option for those who want to lose weight or reduce their sugar intake.

However Professor Christopher Millett, senior investigator from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “A common perception, which may be influenced by industry marketing, is that because diet drinks have no sugar, they must be healthier and aid weight loss when used as a substitute for full sugar versions. However we found no solid evidence to support this.”

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Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, and sports drinks, make up a third of UK teenagers’ sugar intake, and nearly half of all sugar intake in the US. SSBs provide many calories but very few essential nutrients, and their consumption is a major cause of increasing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

ASBs currently comprise a quarter of the global sweetened beverages market, but they are not taxed or regulated to the same extent as SSBs – perhaps due to their perceived harmlessness, say the researchers.

Despite having no or very little energy content, there is a concern that ASBs might trigger compensatory food intake by stimulating sweet taste receptors. This, together with the consumers awareness of the low-calorie content of ASBs, may result in overconsumption of other foods, thus contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related health problems.

Professor Millett and colleagues outlined current evidence of the health effects of consuming ASBs. Although there was no direct evidence for a role of ASBs in weight gain, they found that there was no evidence that ASBs aid weight loss or prevent weight gain compared with the full sugar versions.

In addition, the production of ASBs has negative consequences for the environment, with up to 300 litres of water required to produce a 0.5 L plastic bottle of carbonated soft drink.

Dr Maria Carolina Borges, first author of the study from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil added: “The lack of solid evidence on the health effects of ASBs and the potential influence of bias from industry funded studies should be taken seriously when discussing whether ASBs are adequate alternatives to SSBs.”

Professor Carlos Monteiro, co-author from the University of Sao Paulo, said: “Taxes and regulation on SBS and not ASBs will ultimately promote the consumption of diet drinks rather than plain water – the desirable source of hydration for everyone.”

The authors added: “Far from helping to solve the global obesity crisis, ASBs may be contributing to the problem and should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet.”

Posted 11:29 AM Thursday January 12, 2017. Filed under Health & Beauty. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response to this entry. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to Diet drinks ‘no more helpful’ than full sugar drinks

  1. emily Reply

    January 13, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Thank you for the tips. I have been trying to lose weight for years and now I am almost 39 it’s getting harder and harder to lose it. In fact it just seems to be creeping up slowly and I am also worried that I could develop diabetes because of my weight. I was actually getting a little desperate trying to find some kind of diet that worked long term until a friend recommended Paleo Hacks recipe book. It’s early days still but I have started to see the weight come off. I started at 222lbs and my weight is now 192lbs and it’s only been just over 1 months so it appears to be working, which I have to admit is a little bit of a shock to me since I have tried an failed so many conventional diets. It is actually easy and sustainable so I’ll keep going and see how I get on. The article was very helpful to me — if you want to check it out yourself you can read it here: http://www.healthyconclusion.com/paleohacks-cookbook-review/ ,Hope this guides you through your weight loss journey too.
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