Light drinks are low in calories and sugar-free, but are the sweetener drinks that much healthier? We have the answer. Many foods can be divided into the categories “healthy” (fruit, vegetables) or “unhealthy” (pizza and fries). Light drinks are an exception because they are in a particular grey area: Nobody knows whether the cola with sugar or the one with sweeteners is better or worse. And so some despise the diet drinks as artificial chemical bombs, while others are downright addicted to calorie and sugar-free enjoyment.
What Are Soft Drinks?
There is a sugar-free light version of many soft drinks that tastes (almost) exactly like the sugary drink. However, the sweetness is not created by sugar but by sweeteners like aspartame. As the name suggests, these sweeteners have a high degree of sweetening power, but your body does not have any enzymes to break them down, so you cannot use the calories. Aspartame & Co. are, however, repeatedly suspected of being harmful to health.
Why Are Soft Drinks Without Sugar So Popular?
Jane Ogden, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Surrey at Guildford, England, explains why: “Many people are constantly on a diet. The word diet means to them to be slim and in control.” The majority strive to keep the body fat percentage low. The negative sugar headlines in recent years have also contributed to the fact that sugar-free soft drinks are trendy. Many opt for the sugar-free version because they want to consume less sugar and satisfy their craving for sweets with light beverages.
Do Light Drinks Make You Fat?
The advertising messages of diet drinks convey enjoyment without regrets, without calories and without being overweight. But a study published in the ” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ” examined the effect of soft drinks on body weight and found that participants who consumed one litre of a sugary soft drink every day gained around 10 kilos in 6 months. Test subjects who took a diet drink instead gained only 1.5 kilograms in comparison.
According to this, sweeteners have a much more positive effect on weight than sugar and can be pretty helpful when losing weight. Nevertheless, soft drinks are not weight-neutral, even if they do not contain any calories.
What Do Light Drinks Do?
Consuming artificial substances triggers several biochemical processes in your body that can make it more prone to obesity. “The people with the light drinks in the study put on weight not because they had consumed more calories, but because their insulin levels had increased,” explains Robert Lustig, professor of endocrinology at the US University of California in Oakland. “The more insulin there is in your blood, the more sugar is stored in the cells as fat.” Insulin transports sugar into the body’s cells, either converted into energy or stored in the form of fat.
Thus, sugar-free drinks raise your insulin levels even though they do not contain sugar. This was also shown by a study published in the US journal ” Diabetes Care “. Group 1 consumed a non-alcoholic and calorie-free drink; group 2 did nothing at all. The glucose and insulin levels of all participants were then measured. It turned out that the group with the glasses had 20 percent more insulin in their blood than the control group.
Why Do Light Drinks Affect Insulin Levels?
When the sweet stimulus hits our tongue, special receptors have activated that signal the brain that sugar has been absorbed. “The brain then reports to the pancreas that insulin should be released in order to transport the glucose into the cells,” explains Professor Robert Lustig. All of this happens in your body even though no sugar molecule has passed your lips.
Sweeteners Confuse The Taste Buds
They are called aspartame, saccharin and sorbitol and have no calories but no nutrients either. However, the sweetening power of the artificial sugar alternatives from the laboratory is many times higher than that of sugar. Because of their high sweetening power, they are only used in small quantities. Especially in people who avoid sugar entirely, sweeteners have a very aggressive effect on taste receptors. “It can have consequences if you drink artificially sweetened drinks without eating real sugar,” says Lustig. “The point of a sugar-free lifestyle is actually to sensitize yourself to sweet foods. If you instead regularly consume light drinks with sweeteners, exactly the opposite happens.”
The taste buds are so overused by sweeteners that other naturally sweet-tasting foods are no longer perceived as sweet. This makes the desire for soft drinks even greater.
How Unhealthy Are Light Drinks?
There are numerous studies on sweeteners, but science still disagrees on whether chemical sugar substitutes are healthy or unhealthy. The fact is: foods that are not safe are not allowed in Germany. Nevertheless, there is a lack of long-term studies. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the European Food Safety Authority rate sweeteners such as Aspartman as harmless if consumed in moderation. However, studies repeatedly point to a connection with cancer, diabetes and obesity. The most common theses:
Sweeteners Are Said To Damage The Intestinal Flora: They do this by acting on microorganisms. These are involved in digestion and break down carbohydrates. It is believed that sweeteners promote the spread of microorganisms. This would accelerate the absorption of sugar into the body. The connection sounds perfectly plausible to scientists. However, the results obtained in mice have not yet been confirmed in humans.
Sweeteners Are Suspected Of Causing Cancer: The statement can neither be supported nor refuted by current studies. A study in the 1960s had shown the link between saccharin and bladder cancer in rats. However, the rats were given an enormous amount that could never be consumed by a human being (20 kilograms of sugar or 4,000 sweetener tablets). Aspartame continues to be suspected of causing cancer. This was also tested on rats. Background: The breakdown products of aspartame are the carcinogenic substances methanol and formaldehyde. However, it is still disputed whether the quantities in question are sufficient for a hazard.
Sweeteners Could Cause Cravings: Sweeteners act on the brain and trigger cravings there because the brain waits for sugar due to the sweet stimulus. If this does not happen, however, the brain is confused and cannot interpret the information. If this happens frequently, it interprets the process as a nutrient crisis and demands more food. The connection is now considered to be reasonably confident in research.
Conclusion: Water Is Still The Best Alternative
The subject of sweeteners is challenging. The study situation is controversial and opaque. But the fact is: sweeteners such as aspartame have been assessed as harmless by several authorities and make you less fat than sugary drinks because sweeteners are calorie-free. But they are not a panacea that will necessarily help you lose weight. If you want to lose weight and eat healthily, it is best to avoid sugar and sweeteners. Water is still the best alternative to quench your thirst. Now and then, you can treat yourself to a cola – with sugar or sweetener.
ALSO READ: THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WATER TO DRINK