Should you stop drinking diet drinks?

I was a Diet Coke fiend, drinking 2-3 cans every day. It felt like the perfect drink to help me lose weight – it’s practically calorie free, it fills you up, and it tastes delicious. Reaching for a can of diet coke has got to be better for you than reaching for the biscuit tin… Or does it? For years, we have been told that fizzy drinks are bad for our general health, but current research is not coming up with a definitive answer as to whether or not that’s true. 

There has been lots of research suggesting that there is a link between drinking diet drinks and being overweight, while others show that they help with weight management. We don’t know whether diet drinks are causing the weight gain, or whether people of a larger size are drinking them in order to lose weight. A further research challenge is identifying what quantity of sweeteners someone is consuming. Large quantities of artificial sweeteners are found in low calorie drinks, but they are also used in many food products, so it is difficult to pinpoint how much sweetener someone is consuming. One product often contains more than one type of sweetener. For example, Diet Coke contains both Aspartame and Acesulfame K. It is impossible to know whether individually they affect us in different ways.

There is also conflicting evidence on the impact of fizzy drinks on hormones and the gut, two areas that affect our weight. Some studies suggest that your brain responds to the sweetness  of the drink by producing insulin. If we have too much insulin it can cause a disruption to our blood sugar, leading to cravings. Also, insulin signals the body to slow the breakdown of fat which can affect weight loss. Some research suggests diet drinks interfere with our hunger signals so that we eat too much. And other research suggests that because we feel virtuous for having fewer calories after drinking a diet soda, that we eat more biscuits etc because we feel we can.

So does all this mean we can continue to drink diet drinks? My take on all of this is:

  • The jury is still out. There is no conclusive evidence that diet drinks are harmful to us, but there is also NO conclusive evidence that they aren’t
  • Look at the ingredients. They are full of chemicals and processed. We are trying to get away from processed food and drink and concentrating on increasing the amount of real unprocessed food and drink we consume
  • Drinking them often leads to bloating and wind
  • They are bad for your teeth
  • I think they have an addictive quality. When I stopped drinking diet coke, I struggled with withdrawal symptoms – searing headache and tremors

You may choose to limit how many you drink, or you may decide to give diet drinks up altogether. Here are 12 tips to try, to help you wean yourself off them:

  • Start replacing big cans with the small cans, then gradually reduce the number you are having
  • Try a little balsamic vinegar in sparkling water
  • A little apple cider vinegar in sparkling water
  • Karma cola has much better ingredients, is organic and not full of chemicals (there is one with sugar and one with stevia) – now available at Waitrose.
  • Fentimans curiosity cola or Rose Lemonade. They do contain sugar so it is preferable to drink them with your meal – available from Waitrose
  • Nexba Naturally Sugar Free Elderflower and Lemon Kombucha. It may be a suitable compromise
  • Whole Earth Organic Sparkling Cola Drink, Flavoured Fizzy Soft Drink Made with Fruit Juice, 100% Natural Ingredients, No Added Refined Sugar, Gluten Free Vegetarian & Vegan, Multi Packs available – available from Amazon
  • Cawston Press Sparkling Drinks – available from Sainsburys
  • Gusto Organic Cherry Cola – available from Waitrose
  • A jug of water flavoured with cucumber and mint, crushed berry’s, or fresh lemon with fresh ginger
  • Flavour iced tea with lemon and use a little honey or maple syrup if it’s not sweet enough
  • Some herbal tea make a really refreshing cold drink, particularly the sweeter varieties like rooibos or a cranberry tea

If you’d like to talk about cutting down on diet drinks, please reach out for support.

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