Drinking diet drinks makes you fat

Light drinks: They really are that (un) healthy

Diet drinks like Coke Zero or Cola Light are now part of everyday life for many. After all, it is healthier than regular cola with sugar, right? Yes and no, because the light versions form a kind of gray area: Nobody really knows whether the sugar-rich drink or the one with a lot of additives is better or worse.

Some despise the supposed diet drinks as artificial chemical bombs, while others are fans of calorie and sugar-free enjoyment. Who is right now? Difficult question that needs to be clarified.

Despite the debates, light drinks are everywhere. They appear in connection with the most diverse forms of nutrition - this can be seen above all on Instagram. They are also popular in the fitness scene. Because women who are passionate about sport often opt for the light version because they have completely eliminated sugar from their menu and quickly hiss a light drink to soothe their appetite for sweets. A mistake, as will be shown.

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Everyone loves light drinks - for this reason!

Why are light drinks so successful in the first place? Jane Ogden, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Surrey at Guildford (England), explains this with a deeply rooted attitude towards life:

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Sugar-free soft drinks contain no sugar and no calories.

"Many people are constantly on a diet. That means for them to be slim and in control." Whether you have a six-pack or are still dreaming about it, who doesn't strive to keep body fat low and be slim? This is where the advertising slogan of light drinks comes into play, because the label and the advertising promise that the content is healthy and makes you slim. The lousy press about sugar in recent years has contributed to the rest. So it's no wonder that so many people choose "light". But that can be a mistake.

Do light drinks make you fat?

The advertising messages convey enjoyment without regrets, without calories and without being overweight. For example, Light-Cola can also be found in the category 0 points at Weight Watchers - so it can be enjoyed without restrictions. However, studies show something completely different.

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A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently examined the effect of soft drinks on body weight: Participants who consumed one liter of a sugary soft drink per day gained around 10 kilos within 6 months. So not recommendable.

Test subjects who consumed a carbonated diet drink instead gained just 1.5 kilograms in comparison. But wait a minute: why do the test subjects from the control group gain weight at all when light drinks have no calories? The study situation on sweeteners is delicate and the topic has not yet been conclusively researched, but it is considered certain:

The consumption of artificial substances triggers a number of biochemical processes in the body and can make it more prone to obesity.

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Are light drinks really healthier than normal soft drinks?

"The people who took the light drinks put on weight not because they had consumed more calories, but because their insulin levels had risen," explains Robert Lustig, anti-sugar activist and professor of endocrinology at the US University of California in Oakland. "The more insulin there is in your blood, the more sugar is stored in the cells as fat." The hormone insulin transports sugar into the cells, where it is either converted into energy or stored in the form of fat. This sets in motion a sequence of reactions that can result in excessive calorie intake.

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Do light drinks increase insulin levels?

Why does the body release insulin at all when the drinks do not contain sugar? There is also a study on this, the results of which have been published in the US journal "Diabetes Care". One group of participants consumed a non-alcoholic and calorie-free drink, the other nothing. The glucose and insulin levels of all participants were then measured. It turned out that the group with the drinks had 20 percent more insulin in their blood than the control group. How come? Because the drink pretends that there is sugar to be processed.

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It is not just sugar that causes insulin to be released in the body.

When the sweet stimulus hits the tongue, specific receptors are activated. "These first send the message to the brain that sugar is flowing in," says expert Lustig. "The brain then reports to the pancreas that it is getting ready for the sugar, i.e. that it should release insulin in order to transport the glucose into the cells." All of this happens even though not the smallest molecule of sugar has passed the mouth. The result: hunger! And what you eat as a result may cause you to gain weight.

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Sweeteners trigger cravings in the brain because it waits for sugar through a sweet stimulus. If there is no sugar, the brain is confused and cannot interpret the information. If this happens frequently, it interprets the process as a nutrient crisis and demands more food.

Light drinks strain the taste buds

The sweetening power of sweeteners is many times higher than that of sugar. Of the 11 sweeteners approved in the EU, cyclamate is around 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar - and yet of these it is the least sweet. The other end of the scale is occupied by the Advantam, which was only approved in 2014, with a sweetness power that is 20,000 to 37,000 times higher. Food contains correspondingly small amounts of it, and yet many taste extremely sweet.

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Sweeteners confuse our taste buds - and make you less sensitive to sweets.

Especially in people who completely avoid sugar, sweeteners have a very aggressive effect on the taste receptors. "There can be consequences if you consume artificially sweetened drinks without eating real sugar," says Lustig. The point of a sugar-free lifestyle is actually to be sensitive to sweet foods.

If you regularly drink artificially sweetened drinks, your taste buds will be overused to such an extent that other naturally sweet-tasting foods will no longer be perceived as sweet.

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Surveys of people who renounce both sugar and sweeteners show that their taste buds have regenerated so much that they even perceive a bitter-sour grapefruit to be sweet again. The best thing about it is that this process of getting used to it begins after 2 to 3 weeks of abstinence from sweeteners.

Do sweeteners make you sick?

Food that is not safe is not allowed in Germany. Nevertheless, there is a lack of long-term studies. The effects of sweeteners on the body are still not fully understood. The most common assumptions:

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Can light drinks cause illness?

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  1. Increased risk of cancer and stroke: One study looked at the possibility of links between artificial sweeteners and various health risks, such as an increased risk of stroke and cancer. However, the authors of the study clearly emphasize that cause and effect cannot be clearly related to one another. Further research is needed.
  2. Formation of tumors: It's still no more than a guess that aspartame can cause cancer. In mice, the sweetener accelerated the growth of tumors. Background: The breakdown products of aspartame are the carcinogenic substances methanol and formaldehyde. Does that also apply to people? Not clear.
  3. Changes in intestinal bacteria: Sweeteners are also said to have a negative effect on the intestinal flora by acting on microorganisms. They are involved in digestion there and break down carbohydrates. It is believed that sweeteners promote the spread of the microorganisms. This would accelerate the absorption of sugar into the body. The connection sounds perfectly plausible to scientists. However, the results obtained in mice have not yet been confirmed in humans.

Coconut water is so healthy

The fact is: soda with sweetener makes you less fat than sugary - but it is not weight-neutral. Sugar-free drinks like water or tea are still best. But: If you don't overdo it, a coke is okay every now and then - no sugar, no sweetener.

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