Diet drinks not the sweet solution, Purdue professor says
By Jay Keller
The issue was renewed again this week when Susan E. Swithers, a professor from Purdue University, published an opinion article that argues diet drinks are not the sweet solution to fight obesity and health problems.
Swithers turned up public opinion by raising red flags about all sweeteners—even those that don’t have any calories.
“It is not uncommon for people to be given messages that artificially-sweetened products are healthy, will help them lose weight or will help prevent weight gain,” Swithers said.
Swithers says there is no evidence supporting a common-sense conclusion that diet sodas are a better choice than regular.
The Calorie Control Council, whose members include manufacturers and suppliers of low- and reduced-calorie sweeteners, was quick to disagree with Swithers’ conclusions by saying the assertions show only one side of the story.
“The author ignores the large body of robust scientific research that demonstrates the safety and benefits of low-calorie sweeteners,” Calorie Council spokesperson Haley Curtis Stevens, Ph.D., said in a statement on Thursday.
Stevens argues that new information published by Swithers was a subjective conclusion rather than a peer-reviewed study that “adds no new data to the literature.”
Additionally, the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics both support the position that low- and no-calorie sweeteners can help reduce calories consumption and aid in the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Regardless, Swithers warns that telling people to drink diet sodas could backfire as a public health message, saying the message needs to be expanded beyond sugars to include limiting the intake of all sweeteners.
The Calorie Council says the informed opinion of the Purdue professor comes up short when compared to the body of evidence supporting products with artificial sweeteners, like calorie-free soft and sports drinks.
Numerous studies were also provided to counter Swithers’ opinion, showing that human consumption of low-calorie sweeteners “does not lead to an increase in blood glucose levels, energy intake, feelings of hunger or body weight when controlling for other factors.”
“The data to support those claims are not very strong, and although it seems like common sense that diet sodas would not be as problematic as regular sodas, common sense is not always right,” Swithers said.
The Journal of Nutrition concluded “there is no evidence that [low-calorie sweeteners] LCS can be claimed to be a cause of higher body weights in adults” during a 2012 review of human studies on low-calorie sweeteners and weight management.