Science

Health Concerns of Sugar Free Drinks

Nowadays nearly every brand of fizzy drink seems to have a diet or sugar free option. We think it’s an easy way to cut calories or a healthier alternative to sugar, yet sugar substitutes have been reported to have dangerous health effects.

Artificial sweeteners are branded as being diet or fat free because they are not broken down by the body. They also have a much greater sweetness than normal sugar and so less needs to be used to achieve the high sweetness of fizzy drinks. They have a smaller energy value and so less calories. Common sweeteners include aspartame, stevia, saccharin and sucralose.

The first form of artificial sweetener used was cyclamates, but these were banned in America after they were shown to cause cancer in lab rats. Sucralose is another popular artificial sweetener, most commonly known by its brand name Splenda. Its sweetness is said to be between 300 to 1,000 times greater than normal sugar (sucralose). However, Splenda is believed to increase the size of the kidneys and liver, whilst causing skin irritation and bladder problems.

Aspartame is the most commonly used as a substitute for sugar in diet drinks and foods, under the brand name NutraSweet. There has been numerous health risks associated with the artificial sweetener. It is believed to be linked to hallucinations, seizures, brain tumors and cancers. Reports have suggested that aspartame is a carcinogen after tests on rats found some to develop brain tumors after consuming aspartame. Diet Coke contains the highest amount of aspartate of all popular diet drinks.

It has been suggested that artificially sweetened foods and drinks can increase appetite and cause weight gain. They increase your cravings for carbohydrates by deceiving the body into believing it’s getting calories from sugar and then stimulates fat storage. As you trick your body into thinking it’s receiving sugar, you have greater cravings.

There have also been risks reported of aspartame and other sweeteners causing strokes and heart problems. They make the body less sensitive to insulin which controls blood glucose levels and so increases blood pressure.
Another great health risk is metabolic syndrome which includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood glucose. A study carried out over 9 years found a 36% increase in metabolic syndrome in those that drank diet drinks.

In Britain alone, we drink over six million liters of fizzy drinks each year, with diet options becoming ever more popular. Although we think of diet drinks as the healthier, low fat option, there is an alarming amount of evidence suggesting they could carry serious health risks.
Jessica Hewitt-Dean

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Science
4 Comments on this post.
  • Rob
    3 September 2013 at 15:04
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    I know of two diet soda drinkers personally, one of whom recently had a seizure and the other who was diagnosed with MS. I wonder about the relationship.

  • jody
    5 September 2013 at 18:22
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    Four years of deterioating health and MANY doctors of multiple specialties later. Damaged liver, hemochromatosis, chronic chest pain, nausea and excrusiating leg/muscle/joint pain..great difficulty walking and facing foot reconstruction for damaged tendons/severe leg spasms and pain , arm pain and vision deteriorating.. Drinking 6+diet cokes/day. At friends suggestion I did serious aspartame detox.ALL symptoms resolved after 90 days!!!!!! Stick with the detox. It might take 3 months but aspartame is pure poison!!!

  • James
    26 September 2013 at 19:19
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    “[aspartame] is believed to be linked to hallucinations, seizures, brain tumors and cancers.” Says who? certainly not the scientists, since virtually all the literature finds this not to be true.

    “Reports have suggested that aspartame is a carcinogen after tests on rats found some to develop brain tumors after consuming aspartame.” Except this flies in the face of all the other research on the topic and the conclusion completely contradicts observations we can immediately make from every day life. We’d be facing a HUGE problem already if the tiny quantities of aspartame investigated in that single study really did cause such problems.

    On a similar diet, detox diets are almost invariably a crock of shit.

  • Andrew Smith
    22 November 2015 at 14:01
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    What a pity Jessica didn’t read last week’s blog on the same topic http://www.impactnottingham.com/2015/11/aspartame-safety-in-numbers/
    or maybe she did…
    The scare stories Jessica repeats are just that – scare stories; the allegations are not founded in science (including the ones about aspartame). Cherry-picking data to reinforce your beliefs is not science.
    As to low calorie sweeteners helping people manage their weight – a new scientific review by Peter Rogers at Bristol Uni demonstrates that low calorie sweetened beverages can help weight loss
    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/expsych/news/2015/rogersreview.html
    It would be nice to think that people who post on IMPACT do so having researched their subject – not so in all cases it seems.

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