Don’t be fooled if you want to lose weight
Diet drinks could still make you fat, scientists have warned the American Diabetes Association’s annual conference. They spent 10 years studying almost 500 men and women and have discovered a link between low-calorie soft drinks with expanding waistlines – even when the drinks are taken in small quantities.
Those who drink two or more diet fizzy drinks a day put on weight at five times the rate of those who never drink them. The experts’ advice is to drink water instead.
Amazingly, they say that people who can’t do without a “sugar rush” may be better off drinking normal full-sugar fizzy drinks than the diet versions.
Professor Helen Hazuda, of the University of Texas’s health science centre, said diet drinks and artificial sweeteners may foster a sweet tooth, distort appetite and even damage key brain cells. As a result, people might be “ill advised” to treat them as healthy alternatives.
“They may be free of calories but not of consequences,” the professor warned. She has now given up diet drinks and lemonade. In the research she studied the health and habits of 474 adults for an average of over nine years..
Those who drank diet drinks saw their waists expand 70 per cent faster than those who drank full-sugar versions. But “frequent users” –those who drink two or more cans a day – saw a 500 per cent greater increase in waistlines.
A second study, carried out on mice, linked the sweetener aspartame (used as a sugar substitute in many drinks and foods)with the sort of damage in the pancreas that can occur early in diabetes.
The researchers said they think that artificial sweeteners may distort appetite, leaving us craving extra-sweet and unhealthy treats. They may also damage brain cells involved in feelings of fullness, while the lack of real sugar could also stop us from feeling full.
So artificial sweeteners may actually trigger appetite but unlike regular sugars don’t deliver something that will suppress the appetite.