Diet soft drinks that contain certain artificial sweeteners may be just as bad for your health as regular full-sugar versions, researchers in the US have warned.
People often choose diet soft drinks to cut calories and potentially lose weight. But despite being calorie free, a new study suggests that some can have the opposite effect on weight and increase the risk of obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, headed by Professor Susan Swithers, analysed data from several recent studies which showed evidence that diet soft drinks can be just as harmful as regular sugar-sweetened beverages.
The drinks that were included in the studies contained aspartamen, sucralose and saccharin – artificial sweeteners which are consumed by 30% of American adults on a daily basis.
Writing in the journal Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Prof Swithers said: “Recent data from human and rodent models have provided little support for ASB [artificially sweetened beverages] in promoting weight loss or preventing negative health outcomes such as metabolic syndromen, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular events.
“Instead, a number of studies suggest people who regularly consume ASB are at increased risk compared with those that do not.”
She claims that one possible explanation is that by dampening physiological responses to the taste of sweet foods and drinks, non-calorie sweeteners may cause people to overindulge in fatty, sugary products.
Another is that sweeteners trick the body into thinking it is consuming sugar or calories. When these calories are not there, the body might signal to the brain that it needs energy – a kind of confusion that can lead to overeating.
Prof Swithers said: “In general, we probably consume too many sweeteners – both artificial and natural – and a lot of those sweeteners come from beverages. Reducing the amount of sweetened products we consume could be useful in decreasing the prevalence of diseases like diabetes.”

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