Diet Drinks: No Benefits, Potential Harm
The American diet is too high in sugar—approximately 75 percent of processed foods and drinks contain added sugar, and consumption of sugary drinks has increased fivefold since the 1950s. Enter sugar-free, artificially sweetened, “diet” beverages, said to be a healthier option that helps prevent weight gain. But not so fast.
A comprehensive analysis of existing research—by the Imperial College London, the University of Sao Paulo and the Federal University of Pelotas (both in Brazil), and Washington University in Missouri—shows that ASBs (artificially sweetened beverages) are no more effective at promoting weight loss than sugary drinks. According to researchers, consumption of artificially sweetened beverages, which doubled in children in the U.S. from 1999 to 2008, can lead to the overeating and actually increase weight gain and the risk for obesity-related conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Much of the research remains controversial—for example, observational study results might be affected by reverse causality, that is, people who are overweight may consume more ASBs because they are trying to lose weight, rather than ASBs contributing to weight gain. However, more reliable randomized controlled studies have also shown that artificially sweetened drinks have little to no effect on weight loss.
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