A new study from Imperial College London has found that, although diet drinks are a better option than full sugar ones, artificial sweeteners contained in sugar-free versions may not help prevent weight gain.
The British researchers, alongside peers from two Brazilian universities, have reportedly reviewed dozens of existing studies on sugar-free soft drinks and found no strong evidence that they aid weight loss.
They also looked at the impact of consumption of sugar-free alternatives to full-sugar drinks on disease rates, and could not link artificially sweetened drinks to a decrease in the incidence of obesity or type 2 diabetes.
This does not mean, according to researchers, that there are no benefits to artificially-sweetened drinks. They remain a healthier option than sugar-sweetened beverages with sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, or fruit juice concentrates, which we know contribute to rising rates of obesity, especially among young people.
Many people wanting to lose weight have turned to sugar-free versions of these drinks in an attempt to reduce calories, which they perceive as relatively harmless since they contribute to lower overall sugar intake.
But, researchers here argue that this might not be the case. Beverages containing artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartamen, and other sugar substitutes, may not be the healthiest option to help keep weight off.
Artificially sweetened beverages are low calorie, but there is concern that they might stimulate certain sweet taste receptors in the brain which have been associated with overeating.
The evidence is, however, still unclear about the direct effects of artificial sweeteners on weight gain, which explains why drinks formulated with them will not be taxed and regulated like sugary drinks are set to be.
In addition to a lack of solid evidence against artificial sweeteners, influence from industry taints many studies conducted on them, adding to the confusion about sugar-free drinks.
This suggests that while artificial sweeteners constitute a helpful tool for many people used to drinking full sugar drinks, these should be consumed in moderation and in the context of a balanced diet.

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