Many adults and kids have switched to diet drinks to help reduce their calorie intake. In fact, children who drink sugar-free beverages have doubled in the past 10 years according to a study released in 2012.
Are diet beverages really better for you? Not necessarily and they may actually be doing more harm than good.
Purdue University researchers reviewed a dozen studies published during the last five years to examine the relationship between consuming diet soda and health outcomes. In an opinion piece published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, the authors said they were shocked by the results.
"Honestly, I thought that diet soda would be marginally better compared to regular soda in terms of health," said Susan Swithers, the report's author and a behavioral neuroscientist and professor of psychological sciences. But in reality it has a counterintuitive effect.
The body doesn't appear to know what to do with the fake sugar. It thinks it's getting real food, but it doesn't get the food complexity that it expects and doesn't know how to respond.
"You've messed up the whole system, so when you consume real sugar, your body doesn't know if it should try to process it because it's been tricked by the fake sugar so many times," says Swithers.
If someone drinks a lot of sugar free beverages, when they actually do take in real sugar, their body doesn't release the hormones that would normally regulate blood sugars and blood pressure. That scenario can become a real long-term health problem.
The report also noted that diet soda drinkers tended to gain more weight than those who don't drink it.
It found that diet soda drinkers who maintained a healthy weight range still had a significantly increased risk of the top three killers in the United States: diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
"We've gotten to a place where it is normal to drink diet soda because people have the false impression that it is healthier than indulging in a regular soda," says Swithers. "But research is now very clear that we need to also be mindful of how much fake sugar they are consuming."
The American Beverage Association had a different take on the report saying it was an opinion piece and not a study.
"Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today," the association said in a statement. "They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe."
The researchers reviewed only diet soft drinks but suggest that the results may apply to other products that contain fake sugars as well.
So should parents completely eliminate sugar-free products from their child's diet? The simple answer is no, just limit the consumption.
No one is saying cut it out completely,says Swithers. But diet soda should be a treat or indulgence just like your favorite candy, not an everyday thing.
Regular sodas are overloaded with sugar and sugar-free sodas may cause more problems than they solve.
Children's health experts say that instead of a soda, substitute water, milk, or limited amounts of 100% orange juice.
A soda every now and then is not a problem, but one or more every day is. Remember that soft drinks have no nutritional value and are associated with tooth decay not a great combination for any adult or child.
Source: Danielle Dellorto, http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/10/diet-soda-may-do-more-harm-than-good/comment-page-4