Sugar-Free Drinks

When it comes to carbonated soft drinks it’s usually our trans-Atlantic cousins who receive the bad press – but that doesn’t mean we can proclaim innocence. Tea with the Queen might be our more stereotypical choice of beverage but we certainly enjoy a fizzy-drink too. With a growing awareness of what we are putting into our bodies in the UK more people are switching to sugar-free alternatives of our favourite soft drinks.

Can it really be as simple as just switching to sugar-free drinks though? After all, the marketing of these drinks centres around targeting the health-conscious members of our society. Being able to enjoy your favourite drinks without worrying about the physical ramifications sounds perfect. Sugar-free drinks don’t come without their own share of controversy though, especially with their supposed links to causing cancer.

Naturally one major concern with people who regularly consume fizzy-drinks is the possibility of several health risks, including:

  • Abdominal obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Low levels of good cholesterol

In particular there are concerns with how these health risks may lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes. And typically enough, there have been a large number of studies conducted to consider the relationship between these diseases and consumption of fizzy-drinks. While these studies are interesting, most results are also fairly predictable. What is interesting is the fact that studies testing sugar-free drinks show very similar results.

This doesn’t mean that sugar-free drinks are definitively bad though – as always theories are suggested for the results. For example, it’s been suggested that people who drink fizzy drinks on a regular basis may neglect other areas of their health and fitness. Now clearly this is a lofty assumption to make, you can’t just assume that because somebody has a Diet Coke, it has to be accompanied with a doner kebab!

Sugar-free drinks can be sweetened with a number of alternatives, but just like the drinks themselves each sweetener comes with its own controversy.

  • Cyclamate – This sweetener is actually banned for use in the US because studies have shown that excessive consumption might be linked with bladder cancer. It is important to remember that these studies were conducted on rodents though and the substance itself if 50 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Saccharin – The good thing about saccharin is that contains no food energy at all, making it ideal for weight loss. And with being 300 times sweeter than sugar, it’s not like you need a great deal anyway! Similarly to cyclamate though, for a long time saccharin was thought to cause cancer and in California it featured on the list of cancer causing substances. By the 2000s though saccharin had been removed from the list and so were all warning labels on its packaging. The reason why? Well somebody intelligently realised that rodents aren’t really anything like humans and tests on primates showed no cancerous effects.
  • Aspartame – Aspartame is the most commonly used sweetener and also the most controversial. Again concerns with cancer have been raised but there isn’t really any substantial evidence. Another reason for aspartame’s controversy is the fact that it has been shown to increase hunger levels , but clearly the concerns haven’t been great enough to deter its usage.

When you’re looking to lose weight one of the best pieces of advice is to stop drinking fizzy drinks. The advice isn’t to switch to sugar-free alternatives. The truth is that the sugar isn’t the only thing in fizzy-drinks that you shouldn’t be consuming on a regular basis.

Water really is an amazing product of human nature – it contains so many of the nutrients we as humans need. If you’re thirsty, it really is the best option!

Ollie Lawrence
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