Diet drinks not \'diet\' after all [ Op-ed ] 12/01/2017
Diet drinks not 'diet' after all
From soft drinks to white bread, almost everything on the menu seems to contain sugar. Although "diet" drinks have been promoted as a healthful alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, researchers now argue this is not the case. There are currently numerous campaigns trying to raise awareness of the negative health effects of sugar, particularly on weight gain and obesity.

Sugar is highly pervasive in our diet. Approximately 75 percent of processed foods and drinks contain added sugar. Additionally, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has increased fivefold since the 1950s.

Numerous studies have pointed to a link between SSBs and cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. The alternative to SSBs promoted by soft drink companies is the sugar-free, "diet" drink. These artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) are said to be healthful and prevent weight gain. But researchers from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom argue otherwise.

A new commentary on existing ASB research and policy - published in the journal PLOS Medicine - argues that ASBs are just as ineffective in preventing weight loss as their full-sugar counterparts. The commentary is a collaborative effort between Imperial College London, University of Sao Paulo and the Federal University of Pelotas - both in Brazil - and Washington University in St. Louis, MO. According to the authors, in the U.K., SSBs make up a third of the total sugar intake among teenagers. In Brazil, they are the second largest source of dietary sugar, and in the United States, SSBs account for almost half of the added sugar in Americans' diet.

The researchers - led by Prof. Christopher Millett - argue that although SSBs are very high in calories, they contain almost no essential nutrients. Additionally, "convincing epidemiological evidence" has suggested that consuming SSBs increases the risk of being overweight or obese, as well as developing diabetes. ASBs are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to harmful sugary drinks. By 2008, the number of American children consuming ASBs had doubled, compared with 1999. Soft drinks, fruit juices, flavored water, and ready-to-drink coffee and tea are all artificially sweetened.

Because they taste similar to their full-sugar counterparts and have none of their energy content, ASBs are perceived as healthful, as it is believed they do not trigger any energy compensation mechanisms.
 
 
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