DIETING
January 12, 2017

The Bitter Truth About Artificially-Sweetened Drinks

No-cal beverages tend to trigger overeating, and they damage the environment. Tap water is a far better bet.

If your diet plan for this New Year involves substituting artificially-sweetened beverages for regular beverages, you may want to try a different approach. Not only are diet drinks ineffective for preventing weight gain and losing weight, according to the authors of a review just published in PLOS Medicine, they are also harmful to the environment.

It's true that artificially-sweetened beverages (ASBs) have few or no calories, but they stimulate sweet taste receptors in the brain and trigger overeating. This then can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other weight-related diseases.

Artificially-sweetened beverages may actually be part of the obesity problem.

Researchers at Imperial College London and two Brazilian universities examined the current evidence on artificially-sweetened beverages and found none supporting the notion that ASBs contribute to weight loss or prevent weight gain when compared to sugar-sweetened drinks.

They also found that the bottles artificially-sweetened beverages come in, like those of their sugar-sweetened cousins, harm the environment because of the amount of water required to produce plastic bottles. About eighty gallons of water are needed to produce one half-liter (16 ounce) plastic bottle.

Not only is there a lack of solid evidence on the health effects of ASBs, according to Maria Carolina Borges, first author of the study, the potential for bias from industry-funded studies must also be seriously considered when discussing whether artificially-sweetened beverages are adequate alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages.

Taxes and regulations designed to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages will only end up promoting diet drinks, according to Carlos Monteiro, co-author of the study. In fact, artificially-sweetened beverages may actually be part of the obesity problem, and people should not be encouraged to drink them as part of a healthy diet.

The best and most environmentally friendly source of hydration for everyone is plain tap water. Though millions of people assume bottled water is somehow superior, the quality is generally no better than water from the tap, and sometimes it’s just that — water from the tap.

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