Sugar-free drinks replace diet soda. Are they better for you?

Whether to lose weight or just get healthier, the 2021 Annual Food and Health Survey conducted by IFIC revealed that 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 80 said they would be following a specific diet in 2021. However, at the same Time, there has been a cultural shift away from restrictive diets, and the word diet itself needs to be renamed. That’s why sodas labeled “diet” are being fixed or overrun with similar (or even the same) sugar-free sodas, according to a CNN report. But whether these drinks are better than the diet drinks they replace is debatable. Here’s how to determine if sugar-free drinks and sugar substitutes are right for you.

Detailed sugar alternatives

No-calorie or low-calorie sugar substitutes are often hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar, but they don’t raise blood sugar levels. Common sugar substitutes, including sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame K, are often called artificial sweeteners because they are made with artificial ingredients. Meanwhile, other derivatives, such as stevia, monk fruit extract, and allulose are naturally occurring.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers all of these sweeteners to be safe when consumed in acceptable amounts. The exception is those with a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria – aspartame is not safe for people with this disorder. When determining safety, the FDA reviews data on outcomes such as reproductive health, cancer risk, and potential toxic effects on your nervous system. Therefore, while these additives are considered safe from this point of view, questions remain about whether they increase the risk of other problems and whether they are useful.

Related: 15 easy ways to cut back on added sugar in your diet

Potential risks of sugar substitutes

While the Food and Drug Administration considers sugar substitutes to be safe, studies have linked sucralose to a significant decrease in insulin sensitivity, which is thought to be caused by changes in glucose metabolism. This may explain why some research has linked diet soda use to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In one study, researchers tracked more than 66,000 women for 14 years and found that people who drank higher diet soda were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Moreover, while diet soda and sugar substitutes do not raise blood sugar levels, researchers tracked more than 66,000 women for 14 years. In the blood at the moment of consumption, there is no clear evidence that it will help with long-term blood sugar control or weight control, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Meanwhile, studies have also raised concerns that diet soda — including zero-calorie sodas marketed as an alternative — may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. For example, in one study of more than 81,000 women, people who drank large amounts of soft drinks (defined as two or more per day) had a 23% higher risk of stroke and a 29% higher risk of stroke. Heart disease compared to those who drink low amounts (less than one. per week).

There is also the potential for sugar substitutes to negatively affect the gut microbiome. More studies are needed to clarify this, but it raises a red flag since gut dysbacteriosis is linked to higher levels of inflammation and metabolic disorders that may increase the risk of health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity. .

The direct, unpleasant effect of consuming sugar alcohols – a type of low-calorie sugar substitute – is gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol and mannitol, are often found in low-sugar candies, protein bars, and chewing gum. Healthy people may experience mild gas or bloating after eating foods sweetened with sugar alcohols, but if you have a digestive disease, such as irritable bowel syndrome, or eat a large amount of something sweetened with sugar alcohols, you may experience more serious symptoms.

Do sugar substitutes help you control your weight?

It makes sense in theory that replacing high-calorie foods or drinks with low-calorie ones would help with weight management. Yet studies are not clear. It seems that when you eat or drink something sweet without the calories you normally get from those foods, you may experience changes in appetite-regulating hormones that make you hungrier and produce a stronger craving. This is a scenario that could promote overeating and weight gain.

One 2021 study examined the hunger and craving response among people who drank a diet drink, a regular sweet-matched drink, or water. Researchers found that women and people with obesity were more susceptible to the effects of sugar substitutes that stimulate appetite and enhance cravings. Interestingly, men and individuals of a healthy weight did not have the same reactions, so some populations may be more susceptible to the unfavorable effects of these substances.

Who Should Consider a Sugar Substitute?

The truth is that most Americans consume a lot of added sugar, and sodas and other sugary drinks are the main sources of added sugars in our diets. There are very clear links between an excessive sugar diet and health problems, including heart disease, so it makes sense to take steps to reduce your intake of added sugar.

Alternative sweeteners and sugar-free sweetened drinks can be part of your plan to cut back on added sugars, but don’t get carried away. Just because something has no calories or sugar doesn’t make it healthy or beneficial in the long run. There is a possibility that these substances cause changes in metabolism that increase – rather than reduce – the risk of obesity and serious diseases.

As part of a sugar-reducing plan, try to make healthy swaps, such as choosing unsweetened whole grains instead of sugary cereals. If the swap is too intense, you can try mixing unsweetened food with sweetened food until your taste buds adjust, then reduce the amount of the sweetened version you use until you use little or no food.

If you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, it’s OK to go with a diet or sugar-free alternative instead, but you may want to cut back eventually. In the end, try to reduce your dependence on sugar substitutes And Sugar increase.

It’s also helpful to pair a sugar reduction plan with other strategies. When combined with behaviors such as eating more fiber-rich whole plant foods, getting enough sleep, and dealing with stress in healthy ways, you should notice that you don’t crave as much sugar and that less sweet foods taste more enjoyable.

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