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.