It’s rare in life to have your cake and eat it. But are low-calorie sweeteners the guilt-free way to be naughty?
Nobody is going to claim that regularly drinking full-sugar pop is good for you with a 500 ml bottle of cola containing around 200 calories .
But a diet version can come in at only the one calorie.
Simple logic would suggest that swapping a full sugar beverage for a diet version cuts calories from your diet.
And yet such beverages have a mixed reputation. There is public concern about some sweeteners and groups of scientists have asserted that low-calorie sweeteners may lead to weight gain and increase the risk of developing form 2 diabetes.
So do they have a place in our shopping baskets?
“A lot of people assume they must be healthy options since they are not sugared beverages, but the critical thing for people to understand is we don’t have the evidence, ” told Prof Susan Swithers, from the U’Ss Purdue University.
Studies looking at large groups of people have shown obese people tend to drink more fizzy diet beverages than those of a healthy weight.
A study of US adults in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrated 11% who were a healthy weight, 19% of those who were overweight and 22% who were obese drink diet beverages.
And a study in the publication Obesity that followed 3,700 people for eight years demonstrated those eating the low-calorie sweeteners put on the most weight.
The researchers were left asking the question: “Are artificial sweeteners fuelling, rather than fighting, the very epidemic they were designed to block? “
But it is impossible to ascertain cause and effect in such studies. Are the drinks causing weight gain or are obese people turning to diet beverages in an effort to control their weight?
Different types of sweetener
Aspartame: Odourless, white crystalline powder that is derived from two amino acids Saccharine: The first artificial sweetener ever synthesised in 1879 Stevia: Sweetener derived from the South American Stevia plant