Recently, the sugar tax on fizzy drinks has been implemented by the government in order to reduce the rates of obesity. Inevitably, the consumption of diet and zero sugar drinks have increased, however, are these replacements actually beneficial for us?
With obesity rates having quadrupled in the past 25 years there has been growing concern for health. This is since obesity is strongly associated with conditions such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high levels of LDL cholesterol and several types of cancer.
Sweeteners are food additives which provide a sweet taste, like that of sugar, whilst containing significantly less energy, and therefore intend to decrease the amount of weight gained helping to avoid the aforementioned diseases. These artificial sweeteners are either developed from the use of plant extracts or chemical synthesis.
The sugar tax on fizzy drinks has been implemented by the government in order to reduce the rates of obesity
A recent review by researchers at the University of Freiberg in Germany have found evidence which suggests that the replacement of full sugar fizzy drinks with diet drinks has no effect on weight loss, however. The study involved 56 individuals, in some individuals a slight weight gain was found associated with sweetener use, however in most individuals little or no effect on the participant’s weight was shown. This study therefore suggests that swapping sugar with sweeteners does not help obese people to lose weight and could potentially do the opposite. Additionally, the researchers are suggesting that there is a lack of knowledge and sufficient research on the long-term effects of sweeteners on health.
The uncertainty with regard to the effects of sweeteners on health is concerning. A study conducted in 2017 suggested a link between daily diet drink consumption and the diseases stroke or dementia. Currently there is insufficient evidence supporting this claim, although these potential health implications cannot be denied.
Swapping sugar with sweeteners does not help obese people to lose weight and could potentially do the opposite
The consensus among UK academics remains that sweeteners are better than sugar as the largest trials show benefits with respect to weight gain. There is no strong evidence suggesting that sweeteners have negative impacts for health, however sugar is clearly very detrimental for health, and sweeteners therefore remain the preferred option.
Professor Tom Sanders, a nutrition and dietetics expert from King’s College London,unrelated to the study, expressed that although diet drinks are a better option to full sugar drinks they should not be used as a substitute for water, with water remaining the healthiest option.