Investigators Conclude Diet Drinks May Contribute To Weight Gain

Academic investigators from Imperial College London and a couple Brazilian universities (Federal University of Pelotas and University of Sao Paulo) have issued a commentary on current research, and guidelines for sweetened drinks.

In the commentary, sweetened drinks include artificially-sweetened beverages (ASBs) that contain no sugar, and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Though ASBs, or diet drinks are typically considered a healthier choice for people lowering sugar intake, or trying to lose weight, the investigators disagree with this assumption.

“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,” said Professor Christopher Millett, Imperial’s School of Public Health.

There is a concern that the lack of calories in ASBs promotes weight gain by stimulating our sweet taste receptors, triggering increased food intake to compensate for the missing calories. Plus, an awareness of a diet drink’s low-calorie content can lead to an over-indulgence in other foods. In these ways, ASBs may contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic, obesity-related health problems.

After outlining current data on the effects of drinking ASBs, Millett and colleagues found no direct evidence for an ASB role in weight gain, but also found no evidence that weight reduction, or weight gain prevention was aided by ASBs when compared to SSBs. The investigators point out the dearth of definitive evidence on ASB health effects, and the potential bias of industry backed research should be carefully considered when discussing whether diet drinks are a suitable SSB alternative.

“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,” wrote the investigators.

Sources: Science Daily

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