If you’re trying to make healthier lifestyle choices, you’d be forgiven for thinking that swapping a glass of Coke for its diet equivalent is a sensible decision.
After all, Coke contains 139 calories and 35g (or 7 teaspoons) of sugar per 330ml can, while Diet Coke gets its sugary taste from zero-calorie sweeteners. But now a new major review of scientific studies has suggested that there’s no hard evidence that the latter is any better for you than the former.
The research, which took into account the findings from 56 studies on the subject, found that ‘no evidence was seen for health benefits from sweeteners and potential harms could not be excluded.’
‘In this comprehensive systematic review, a broad range of health outcomes were investigated to determine a possible association with non-sugar sweetener use in a generally healthy population,’ the authors of the study, which was led by University of Freiburg and published in the BMJ, explained.
‘There was no compelling evidence to indicate important health benefits of non-sugar sweetener use on a range of health outcomes’ – and the health outcomes analysed included weight loss.
A small number of studies considered did slowed weight gain when sugar was replaced by sweeteners, but this effect was of ‘low or very low certainty’.
Ultimately, the review highlights the necessity for more research into the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners to be conducted.
‘Evidence for health effects due to use of [sweeteners] is conflicting,’ Dr Joerg Meerpohl, who wrote a 2017 paper that linked daily diet drink consumption to increased rates of stroke or dementia, said previously.
‘While some studies report an association between sweetener use and reduced obesity and risk of type 2 diabetes (thus suggesting a benefit for general health and the management of diabetes), other studies suggest that sweetener use could increase the risk of weight gain, diabetes and cancer.’
So we wait for science to give more conclusive answers, what you should be drinking if you want to lose weight and avoid any other negative side effects?
Professor Tom Sanders, a nutrition and dietetics expert from King’s College London who was not involved with the study, told The Independent: ‘The findings of this study are not surprising and confirm the view that artificial sweeteners are not a magic bullet to prevent obesity.
‘Replacement of sugary drinks with artificial sweeteners helps prevent weight gain but is not superior to the preferred alternative — water.’