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ILSI Europe research institute has funded a study reporting that diet drinks are a good weight loss aid. What's the problem? The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo are members of the research group.
The study, described as 'controversial', was published in the International Journal for Obesity. It's been defended by the publishers but the medical community is not convinced.
Cardiologist Dr Malhotra of the National Obesity Forum said 'To suggest that diet drinks are more healthy than drinking water is laughable unscientific nonsense."
The debate around these drinks has been raging for some decades. Scientists continue to argue over the pros and cons, but for most it appears that diet drinks are not considered a healthy option.
Some researchers argue that the low calorie sweetener added to diet drinks leads to weight gain despite their lack of calories. The journal Nature published an article suggesting that it altered animal metabolism, which led to higher blood sugar levels. Human replication of the experiment ended with half the test group developing the same results as the animals.
And let's not forget the aspartame panic that linked diet drinks to premature birth, cancer and allergies. Aspartame is a sugar substitute that's 200 times sweeter than sugar. It's commonly used in diet drinks. Falling sales prompted Pepsi to remove aspartame from their diet drinks in the US last year, but there are no plans to remove it from UK versions, as there are no medical recommendations or studies to show any harmful effects.
A big problem with low calorie soft drinks is that they replace part of our daily intake of water. Water is essential to our health. Medical bodies worldwide advocate drinking several glasses each day. The recommendations vary, but the fact is they all underline our need for water.
Aside from the recent ILSI study, Professor Rogers (who incidentally led the study in question) is not persuaded by animal research into diet drinks. He claims they show 'little relation' to real life use and that drinking a low calorie soft drink may in fact decrease desire for a sweet dessert.
The point that low calorie soft drinks can be used to decrease desire for sugar is a good one. If a person is used to consuming a lot of full fat fizzy drink - a can of coke is approximately 200 calories - then switching to a diet drink, containing one calorie, is a smart move. It could also make the transition to water easier given that sugar and sweet substances are hard to ditch.
Because obesity leads to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, switching to diet soft drinks will help your health by reducing calorie intake, but that's not to say they are actually good for you.
No doubt scientists will continue to debate the issue, but common sense tells us that water is better for us than fizzy sweet drinks. Surely we don't need a scientific study to prove it?