A new health study could crimp diet soda sales
The category has been a bright spot in the dismal soft drink market, but fresh claims about artificial sweeteners may change that.
Ingesting "fake sugar" results in the body's not knowing how to process the real thing and can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease, among other problems, according to researchers at Purdue University, who reviewed 40 years of research on the subject.
The study, published as an opinion article in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, also raises questions about the growing use of artificial sweeteners in other products.
"There is a lot of pressure from the public health sector to find solutions to counter the rise of obesity and chronic disease, and there is a lot of money and business at stake for the food industry as it develops and promotes these products," Purdue professor Susan Swithers said in a press release. She added that most efforts that seek to discourage soda drinking don't mention diet soda, because it's wrongly perceived as healthy.
The American Beverage Association, an industry trade group, disputes Swithers' statement and argues that diet sodas have been shown to be an effective weight-loss tool.
Experts, however, have argued for years that diet sodas are at best a less-bad alternative to regular sugared beverages. Consumption of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi and their rivals has been linked to kidney problems and speeding up intoxication when mixed in cocktails.
Nonetheless, diet sodas are a bright spot in the depressed carbonated beverages market precisely because they're sold as a healthier alternative to full-calorie beverages. Diet soda consumption grew by 25% in the past decade among adults and more than doubled among children, according to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Many nutritionists, though, encourage people to avoid diet beverages, given the questions about their health risks.
"For adults trying to wean themselves from sugary soda, diet soda may be the beverage equivalent of a nicotine patch: something to be used in small amounts, for a short time, just until you kick the habit," according to the Harvard School of Public Health. "For children," it added, "the long-term effects of consuming artificially sweetened beverages are unknown, so it's best for kids to avoid them."
Jonathan Berr owns a small position in Coca-Cola. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.
all in moderation, but I don't believe any of that artificial stuff is good for you, too much of a good thing is bad.
These studies need to be more broadly published, including the methodologies. The conclusions they have reached before regarding this, were based on false assumptions and the results were explainable by other factors.
I'll take my chances with fake sweeteners over high fructose industrially manufactured from corn fake sugar any day.
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