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Archive for September 24th, 2012

Many consider diet drinks as a way to reduce sugar and calories while still enjoying colas and beverages. Is that a good idea?

In recent years, children have more than doubled the amount of diet beverages they drink. Since 2008, adults increased their intake from 19 percent to 25 percent.

But controversy continues. Recent studies of more than 42,000 Americans found that those who drank diet drinks tended to weigh more than those who drank water. Other studies noted that consumers of diet drinks increased their risks for metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors more likely to result in type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and strokes). But those same participants who drank artificially sweetened beverages and ate a healthful diet were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who consumed a poor diet (18 and 20 percent, respectively).

Compared to regular sugar-sweetened colas or moderate intake of diet colas, drinking diet beverages daily may increase risks for stroke, heart attacks, and other heart-related conditions. In animal studies, artificial sweeteners boosted appetite and food intake—as  yet unproven in humans.

So, are diet drinks good or bad? A study of 33,000 Americans published in September 2012 provided proof for the harmful effects of sugary drinks in certain people. Sugar interacted with genes that affected weight. All of us have a few of those genes, but some have more than others. Those with genes predisposed to weight gain that drank sugary drinks put on more weight, regardless of exercise or overeating. In this study, diet drinks did not increase risks for obesity.

In a 2012 position paper, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that “consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive sweeteners and nonnutritive sweeteners (NNS). . . [as] guided by current federal nutrition recommendations.” (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014899/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003096/ ).

How does all this information translate for you and me? One study suggested that children replace diet beverages with milk or water. That’s a good thought for all ages, but will we do it?

What we know scientifically at this point is that evidence remains inconclusive. Sugary drinks will cause weight gain, and diet drinks may cause greater risks for certain health conditions.

The wisest choice seems to be moderation. Try drinking fewer sugary and artificially sweetened beverages. With a conscious effort, you can improve your weight and health while researchers continue to seek what is good or bad.

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