Diet drinks are not the sweet solution to fight obesity

Posted on July 10, 2013 by

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According to Purdue University expert review of recent scientific studies,  diet beverages and other non-caloric, artificially sweetened foods and drinks may not be the healthy choice to manage weight that they appear.  

“Public health officials are rightfully concerned about the consequences of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, but these warnings may need to be expanded to advocate limiting the intake of all sweeteners, including no-calorie sweeteners and so-called diet soft drinks,” said Susan E. Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist. “Although it seems like common sense that diet sodas would not be problematic, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Findings from a variety of studies show that routine consumption of diet sodas, even one per day, can be connected to higher likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, in addition to contributing to weight gain.”

Her findings were published by Cell Press on Wednesday (July 10) in an opinion article in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The concerns for these chemical sweeteners emerged across studies that varied widely in design, methodology and population demographics, and they applied to sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. About 30 percent of adults and 15 percent of children in the United States consume artificial sweeteners.

“The concern that these non-caloric sweeteners might not be healthy is a message that many people do not want to hear, especially as the prevalence of artificial sweeteners increases in other products,” Swithers said.

Research shows that non-caloric or reduced-calorie food and beverages interfere with a body’s learned responses. The assumption is that fewer calories means less weight gain. Research, including studies from Swithers and colleagues, shows that frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the opposite effect by confusing the body’s natural ability to manage calories based on tasting something sweet. Swithers’ research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and she is continuing to study these effects.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Susan E. Swithers, swithers@psych.purdue.edu

Posted in: Family safety