Are Low-Calorie Beverages Really Helpful?

In Education

The past two decades have seen a growing global emphasis on weight loss due to the skyrocketing rate of lifestyle diseases. One of the most popular steps people take to lose weight is eating fewer calories. As a result, soda and water companies have all rushed to manufacture low-calorie drinks. However, researchers now say that these drinks are not only unhelpful in your weight-loss journey, but they might also be making things worse by helping you gain weight.

If you drink a 12- ounce can of diet Coke every day, you eliminate 140 non-nutritive calories you could have gotten from drinking a regular Coke. That’s 4200 fewer calories a month which loosely translates to more than a pound of weight you stand to lose. 

The catch

That said, artificially sweetened drinks tend to create a craving for high-calorie foods. Therefore, although the calorie count of the soda may drop, consumption of other higher-calorie foods may increase. In animal studies, aspartame (an artificial sweetener) has also been found to damage the part of the brain that tells an animal to stop eating.

Additional research on humans has also shown a tendency towards weight gain in people who enjoy artificially sweetened drinks. However, contradicting studies exist that find low-calorie sweetened beverages to help with weight loss.

Furthermore, other health conditions like cardiovascular and kidney diseases can be associated with artificially sweetened beverages. Unfortunately, there’s not enough scientific evidence to prove this.

One factor that makes these studies is called “reverse causation.”People who are already at risk of being overweight tend to choose the diet beverages, making it look like the drinks are responsible for their weight gain.

What about Carbonated water?

Carbonated water has always been a safe bet for people who want to break the soda habit. Without the sugar and calories, it has always been considered the ideal weight loss beverage. However, a 2017 human and animal study cast some doubt on this narrative.

The researchers found that the animals (rats) that were drinking carbonated water also had a bigger appetite for food than drinking soda. As for humans, the ghrelin levels of those who drank carbonated water rose higher than that of those who drank soda.

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