Switching from sodas and energy drinks to artificially sweetened beverages may take away lots of empty calories from the daily diet, but they are far from unproblematic. Some research suggests that they can make us consume even more sugar since artificial sweeteners can trigger our sugar cravings and lead us to choose sweet food over nutritious food (1). And there is also research data implying that artificial sweeteners might drive inflammation (2), change our gut bacteria in a harmful way (3) and that people who consume large volumes of diet drinks have a significantly higher risk to develop type-2 diabetes (4).
A comprehensive study published less than a week ago by the American Heart Association (5) adds to this by showing a clear connection between the intake of artificially sweetened drinks and the risk of stroke. The study followed more than 80,000 women aged 50-79 for almost 12 years. In short, the study showed that women with high consumption (2 cans or more per day) of artificially sweetened soda were:
• 31 % more likely to develop a stroke caused by a blood clot;
• 23 % more likely to have a stroke;
• 29 % more likely to develop heart disease, and at risk for a heart attack;
• 16 % more likely to die by any cause,
All compared to those who had diet drinks less than once a week.
In my life as a food researcher, I have always believed in the so-called precautionary principle which is all about trying to play safe. And even if there are lots of opinions and partly contradictory research out there, there is definitely no consensus that artificial sweeteners are safe in the long run. Here´s one specific and one general advice that I practice in my everyday life:
1: Drink water when you are thirsty. If you have a tendency to feel tired in the afternoon I recommend that you try sparkling water from Good Idea with your lunch meal to stay more energized and avoid sugar cravings.
2: Vary your eating – mix a little bit of everything, including fruits and veggies of different colors. And try new recipes from time to time. It´s a great way of satisfying your body´s needs and avoiding to over-eat unhealthy stuff.