Guideline: Opt for Water Over Diet Beverages

Key Takeaways:

  • The American Heart Association (AHA) advises against regular and extended consumption of diet beverages, recommending a switch to sugar-free water options instead.
  • Preliminary research suggests a possible link between low-calorie sweetened drinks and health issues like weight gain and stroke, but further studies are required for a more definitive conclusion.
  • It may be challenging to transition directly from sugary drinks to water, so diet drinks might be a useful tool in reducing sugar consumption though they shouldn’t be the final goal.
  • Consumption of both diet and sugary drinks is on the decline, according to self-reported surveys.
  • The use of artificial sweeteners as a healthier alternative remains a topic of debate within the scientific community, with further research needed to determine their benefits and possible side effects.

The popularity of diet beverages seems to be on the decline, and this development has the support of numerous health experts, who suggest the preference of water over diet drinks.

Less Consumption of Diet Drinks

The leading voices in nutrition, medical and research fields, under the guidance of the American Heart Association (AHA), have advised against regular and extended consumption of diet drinks, especially in children. They recommend replacing both diet and sugary beverages with regular, carbonated, or flavored water without added sugar.

Research Findings

The committee, after painstakingly examining numerous studies spanning over two years which suggested a possible link between low-calorie sweetened drinks and multiple health issues such as weight gain, dementia, and stroke, concluded that there is insufficient evidence to definitively determine the health effects of diet drinks.

“There’s not an extensive body of literature, be it observational or clinical trials, based on the evidence available at this time, this is the best advice we have,” stated Rachel K. Johnson, a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Vermont, who also chaired the writing group.

Transitioning to Water

The report acknowledges that for many, transitioning directly from sugary drinks to water might prove challenging. Diet drinks might serve as a midway point in reducing sugar consumption for those who are habituated to sweet beverages.

Reports of Declining Consumption

Interestingly, the report indicates a decline in the consumption of both diet and sugary drinks based on self-reported surveys. For example, adults consumed about 5.6 ounces of low-calorie drinks a day in 2006, which reduced to 3.8 ounces a day by 2014. Consumption for children during this period also saw a decline.

Similarly, the intake of drinks packed with sugar showed a drop. Adults consumed about 16.2 ounces a day in 2000, which reduced to about 8.4 ounces a day by 2014. For children, the daily intake decreased from 19 ounces in 2000 to 8.6 ounces per day in 2014.

Proceed with Caution

The advisory exhibited a level of caution towards children, citing the lack of long-term effect data of low-calorie drinks. Dr. Frank Hu, chap of the nutrition department at Harvard University, and a member of the writing group, stated, “The consensus is that for short-term weight control, it’s OK. Certainly, it’s not the best alternative … because we all know there are healthier alternatives, such as water, low-fat, and fat-free milk.”

An exception, however, was suggested for children with diabetes, who maintain a balanced diet and regularly monitor their blood sugar levels. A substitution of low-calorie drinks for sugary ones might be beneficial but only when necessary.

The Verdict on Artificial Sweeteners

The feasibility of artificial sweeteners in aiding the reduction of added sugars intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes remains uncertain. The science advisory included eight low-calorie sweeteners, of which six are currently approved by the FDA.

Christopher Gardner, nutrition researcher and director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, declared, “Artificial soda, there’s nothing good about it…The only health-related role it has is as a transition beverage, replacing sugar-sweetened beverages.”

In conclusion, while the current trends show a decline in regular and diet drinks consumption, it is essential to continue spreading awareness about the healthier alternatives and their role in promoting a healthier lifestyle.

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