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No proof that sugar-free soft drinks are healthier, argues review
❝Soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners, such as diet colas, do not help people lose weight and may be as big a part of the obesity problem as the full-sugar versions,❞ The Guardian reports.
This headline, published in the UK Guardian newspaper was taken from a review on the food industry response to the 2015 WHO report on the links of added sugar in foods to the obesity crisis; this report linked added sugars to obesity and non-communicable diseases such as type-2 diabetes.
The review was carried out by researchers from various institutions in the UK, US and Brazil, such as Imperial College London, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of São Paulo. Individual researchers reported various sources of funding, including the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and an NIHR Research Professorship award.
The review centers around the food industry response to increasing concerns about sugar added drinks, such as colas and fruit juices, by promoting artificially sweetened ones as a healthy alternative.
However, recent evidence suggests these may not actually be a better option, and this review wanted to look into this further.
The review argues that artificially sweetened drinks are just as bad as sugar sweetened drinks and says that the national dietary guidance shouldn't recommend consumption of artificially sweetened drinks as an alternative.
The review concludes there is an "absence of consistent evidence" that artificially sweetened drinks can improve health outcomes such as helping people achieve a healthy body weight. But absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Due to the unsystematic nature of the review we can't be sure all relevant evidence was considered.
the absence of evidence to support the role of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] in preventing weight gain and the lack of studies on other long-term effects on health strengthen the position that ASBs should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet. Review authors
The review authors go on to say, the absence of evidence to support the role of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] in preventing weight gain and the lack of studies on other long-term effects on health strengthen the position that ASBs should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet.
The review goes on to outline evidence about the potential impact of artificially sweetened drinks. It acknowledges that several systematic reviews of observational cohort studies and randomised controlled trials have found an association between artificially sweetened drinks and weight loss.
It also raises the point that there are long-standing concerns that replacing sugar sweetened drinks with artificially sweetened drinks may trigger various mechanisms in the body.
These may include,
- increased appetite
- increased preference for sweet taste,
- or simply overconsumption of solid foods
due to awareness of the low calorie content from artificially sweetened drinks. However, these concerns were not backed up by any solid evidence.
Prof Christopher Millett, senior investigator at 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.” Prof Christopher Millett
The main points revolve around the potential negative health impact of artificially sweetened drinks. It also touches on the environmental impact of sweetened drinks, and goes on to discuss the implications for policy.
The researchers state that although national dietary guidelines generally recommend avoiding or reducing our intake of sugar sweetened drinks, the guidance surrounding consumption of artificially sweetened drinks is mixed.
The researchers conclude: "the absence of evidence to support the role of ASBs [artificially sweetened beverages] in preventing weight gain and the lack of studies on other long-term effects on health strengthen the position that ASBs should not be promoted as part of a healthy diet."
In practice, this means that ASBs should not be recommended in dietary guidance and be subject to the same restrictions on advertising and promotion as those imposed on SSBs. New taxes implemented on SSBs should be applied at the same level to ASBs. Review Authors
"In practice, this means that ASBs should not be recommended in dietary guidance and be subject to the same restrictions on advertising and promotion as those imposed on SSBs. New taxes implemented on SSBs should be applied at the same level to ASBs."
Citation: Borges MC, Louzada ML, de Sá TH, Laverty AA, Parra DC, Garzillo JMF, et al. (2017) Artificially Sweetened Beverages and the Response to the Global Obesity Crisis. PLoS Med 14(1): e1002195. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002195
Read the full articles by following the links below
No evidence sugar free diet soft drinks aid weight loss - study www.theguardian.com
Plosmedicine: article 10.1371 www.plos.org
It is fair to say that the review does not use new research, it builds on existing findings from the WHO. It does however bring to our attention the on-going concerns surrounding added sugar in processed foods and drinks. The review also highlights the lack of research, and conflicting information, surrounding the health benefits or losses due to the consumption of artificial sweetners used as an alternative to sugar.
It is also fair to say that at the moment the medical world has taken the position that artificially sweetened beverages are a better alternative to using sugar sweetened beverages.
EduKational Restaurant takes the view that ASBs (Artificially Sweetened Beverages) offer no benefit in terms of health or diet and we do not use or sell these to our customers.
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