Diet drinks no better than full sugar drinks

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Experts argue sugar free and diet drinks are no more helpful for maintaining a healthy weight than full-sugar versions.

Artificially sweetened beverages (ASBs) should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet and instead must be discussed in a broader context of their potential impacts on health and the environment.

So argue academics from Imperial College London in the UK, the University of Sao Paulo and Federal University of Pelotas, both in Brazil, in a new commentary on current research and policy into sweetened drinks.

Writing in PLOS Medicine, the authors say while consumers may perceive ASBs as the healthier option for those who want to lose weight or reduce sugar intake, this may not be the case.

Professor Christopher Millett, senior investigator from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “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.”

While there was no direct evidence for a role of ASBs in weight gain, the authors said there were long-standing concerns that ASBs may trigger “compensatory mechanisms” and may stimulate sweet taste receptors “which could theoretically increase appetite”.

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