For weight loss: can low-calorie light drinks help with dieting?

Nutrition experts give new recommendations for diet drinks

Numerous studies have recently shown that sugary soft drinks massively promote the development of obesity and various diseases such as diabetes. But is the switch to the light variant the better alternative? US experts recently published an opinion on whether the light versions of the calorie bombs are actually better for health.

Nutrition experts from the American Heart Association (AHA) recently commented on the health risks posed by light drinks in which sugar has been replaced by sweeteners. Among other things, the nutritionists recommend replacing the “diet drinks” with still or carbonated mineral water. The report was recently published in the journal "Circulation".

Fewer diet drinks are a good idea

As the AHA Science Council reports, people today drink fewer light drinks than they did a few years ago. This is basically a positive development. For two years, the expert group analyzed dozens of studies that showed associations between reduced-calorie drinks and weight gain, obesity, dementia such as Alzheimer's, strokes, heart disease and other health problems.

Not a general recommendation

"There is not a great deal of literature - neither observations nor clinical trials," says study's lead author, Rachel K. Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, in a press release on the study results. The health experts therefore do not make any general recommendations. Except one: It always makes sense to drink mineral water instead of diet drinks. Based on the evidence available at the time, this is the best advice the AHA can give, Johnson said.

Light drinks instead of sweetened soft drinks only as a temporary solution

The AHA Science Council explains that many people use diet drinks to replace high-sugar soft drinks such as cola. "This approach can be particularly helpful for people who are used to a sweet-tasting drink and for whom mineral water is, at least initially, not a desirable option," the researchers say in the report.

Overall, the consumption of diet drinks has decreased

The researchers also conducted a survey for the report to determine the average consumption of diet drinks per capita. The team found that consumption is declining. In 2006, American adults still drank around 0.2 liters of light drinks a day. In 2014, per capita consumption was only around 0.1 liters, according to the AHA. The consumption is even lower for children. "It is important to maintain this downward trend," explains Alice H. Lichtenstein, the vice chair of the research group.

Lots of speculation about diet drinks?

"We hear a lot about the possible negative effects of low-calorie sweeteners, but much of it is speculation," said Lichtenstein. In the case of scientifically sound recommendations, one has to go according to available evidence. The best advice the AHA can currently give is to further reduce consumption and avoid excessive drinking of light drinks.

Are diet drinks suitable for overweight children?

"Diet drinks for overweight children are moderately suitable for short-term weight control," is the consensus of the Science Council. However, the nutrition experts point out that there are clearly better alternatives - such as mineral water or low-fat and fat-free milk.

Children with diabetes are an exception

The report included an exception for children with diabetes. As the authors report, diet drinks and a balanced diet could help to keep blood sugar levels in check.

Do light products help you lose weight?

The German nutrition expert Professor Dr. Matthias Blüher position. Although he was not involved in the American investigations, he is head of the research and treatment center for obesity diseases at Leipzig University Medicine. He explains the biggest myths about nutrition and reports that sugar is often replaced by sugar substitutes in light products. This often leads to an increased appetite because the sugar substitutes act on the intestinal bacteria. In many cases, this increased appetite negates or at least complicates a successful weight loss. (vb)

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