Will Diet Coke help you lose weight?

Hi Guys,

Last week I was busy working on the Absolute PT website. Toiling away on the laptop is not my idea of fun.

In this week’s Tony’s Tips I’m asking a key question: are “diet” drinks really good for you?

Look at the shelves in your local supermarket and every fizzy drink has a “diet” alternative. As well as the usual favourites like Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, there are now new “Zero sugar” brands. They all contain a variety of artificial sweeteners to give them their distinct flavour: saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, cyclamate and acesulfame K. But are they any better than consuming real sugars?

You might be surprised to know that actually scientists are completely split on this very issue. For every study that says, it’s better to eat natural sugars, there is another that says artificial sweeteners are the way to go.

So here's a very quick overview of the arguments for and against sweeteners. Then maybe you can decide…

The argument for sweeteners:

They contain no calories. Put simply, sugar adds calories to any food. If you consume too much, or more than you burn off, then you’ll gain weight. This leads to a variety of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. Sweeteners, on the other hand, contain zero calories. So if you drank two diet cokes per day instead of two Cokes, you’d save yourself approximately 400 calories.

They don’t cause tooth decay. Just ask your dentists and they’ll tell you that dental health in the UK is currently extremely poor. It’s because as a nation we are consuming way too much unhealthy food. In particular, sweets and sugary drinks are attacking our gums and causing more trips to the dentist, which is a very expensive habit!

The argument against sweeteners:

They are an unnatural product. The fact is that sweeteners are made in a lab and are a mixture of numerous chemicals. The human body was not designed to break down these chemicals and consume them safely. Sugar, on the other hand, has been digested by the human body over millions of years. The problem in recent years is simply that people have been putting way too much into their bodies – which is one of the reasons we have an obesity epidemic.

Unknown side-effects. There is no definitive study which clarifies exactly what health risks are associated with the consumption of sweeteners. Over the years, there have been many theories – links to headaches, migraines, depression and in some of the most controversial studies, even cancer.

They can actually cause weight gain.. Some studies suggest that sweeteners are actually linked to people gaining weight. The theory behind this is that people mistakenly think that because they’re being good by having a diet drink, they can eat more “bad” food such as chocolate and sweets. The end result being that they consume more calories and hence gain weight

So there you go. Lots of theories, but not enough evidence. One thing’s for sure – diet drinks are definitely not the magic answer to helping people lose weight. And it’s a worry that the best scientists in the world can’t say for sure that sweeteners are entirely safe.

So what do I say? Drink more water. Approximately 1.5 – 2 litres per day. It’s the most basic thing that your body requires and we are simply not drinking enough of it. Also, many people sometimes mistake hunger for thirst. The next time you think you need a snack, try having a big glass of water, you might be surprised.

Take it easy,

Tony

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