5 Reasons Why It's Okay to Drink Diet Beverages

By , John Peters, PhD.
If you’re feeling confused by all of the headlines about diet beverages, you’re not alone. There’s a growing amount of misinformation about diet beverages. Here are some of the facts that we tell our patients who ask about drinking these popular drinks:   
1. They help satisfy your sweet tooth.
Diet beverages can help fulfill our innate desire for sweet – but without adding calories. In fact, University of North Carolina researchers8found that drinking diet beverages didn’t increase appetite or desire for sweets. Diet soda drinkers in their study actually ate less dessert.
2. Diet soda doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.
That’s a big deal for the 29 million Americans who have diabetes, not to mention the 86 million more with pre-diabetes. No wonder that the American Diabetes Association9recommends that people with this disease consume foods and beverages sweetened with low- and no-calorie sweeteners. 
3. They can help you ''trim'' pounds.  
Our recent study, published in the journal Obesity, found that diet beverage drinkers actually lost more weight—on average, four pounds more—than their counterparts who followed the same exercise and diet regimen over 12 weeks but weren’t allowed to enjoy diet beverages. The diet beverage group also reported feeling significantly less hungry, improved blood cholesterol levels more than their counterparts and were more likely to lose five percent of their body weight.
4. Diet beverages can help with weight maintenance.     
The National Weight Control Registry tracks ''successful losers,'' those who have lost 70 or more pounds and kept it off for at least six years. One of the strategies used by successful losers is to consume foods and beverages with low- and no-calorie sweeteners, according to Brown University Medical School researchers.6  That finding, as well as other research, has prompted leading health organizations, including the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics1, to advise that low- and no-calorie sweeteners can help with weight management.
5. Low-calorie sweeteners used in thousands of foods as well as diet beverages are safe. 
Hundreds of studies prove the safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners that are used in foods and  beverages.2The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)3and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)4are just two of the many government agencies that give low- and no-calorie sweeteners their blessing, along with scientific experts from the World Health Organization and the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).5In December 2013, EFSA issued its opinion on one particular low-calorie sweetener – aspartame – after conducting the most extensive review of the ingredient to-date. The conclusion:  it is safe, even for pregnant women.

1. Fitch C, Keim KS. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112(5):739–58. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22709780. Accessed September 30, 2013.

2. Kroger M, Meister K, Kava R. Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes: A Review of the Safety Issues. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2006;5(2):35–47. Available at: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2006.tb00081.x. Accessed September 29, 2013.

3. Food Additives & Ingredients - Food Additive Status List. The Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied. 2013. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm091048.htm. Accessed September 29, 2013.

4. Authority EFS. EFSA Press Release: EFSA completes full risk assessment on aspartame and concludes it is safe at current levels of exposure. European Union. 2013. Available at: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/131210.htm.

5. Evaluations of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). World Health Organization. 2013. Available at: http://apps.who.int/ipsc/database/evaluations/search.aspx?fc=66. Accessed September 29, 2013.

6. Graham TJ, Bond DS, Hill JO, Wing RR. The National Weight Control Registry: A Study of ''Successful Losers.'' American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal. 2011;15(2):8–12. Available at: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Abstract/2011/03000/THE_NATIONAL_WEIGHT_CONTROL_REGISTRY__A_Study_of.7.aspx.

7. Phelan S, Lang W, Jordan D, Wing RR. Use of Artificial Sweeteners and Fat-Modified Foods in Weight Loss Maintainers and Always-Normal Weight Individuals. International Journal of Obesity. 2009;33(10):1183–90. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2771213&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract. Accessed September 30, 2013.

8. Piernas C, Täte DF, Wang X, Popkin BM, Tate DF. Does Diet-Beverage Intake Affect Dietary Consumption Patterns? Results from the Choose Healthy Options Consciously Everyday (CHOICE) Randomized Clinical Trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;97(3):604–11. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23364015. Accessed September 29, 2013.

9. Gardner C, Wylie-Rosett J, Gidding SS, et al. Nonnutritive Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes care. 2012;35(8):1798–808. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=3402256&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract. Accessed September 27, 2013.

10. 2011 National Estimates - 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet - Publications - Diabetes DDT. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/estimates11.htm. Accessed January 8, 2014.

11. Duffey KJ, Popkin BM. Adults with Healthier Dietary Patterns Have Healthier Beverage Patterns. The Journal of Nutrition. 2010;136(11):2901–7. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17056820. Accessed September 30, 2013. 

This blog is brought to you by the American Beverage Association.

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