April 04, 2015

Are Sugar Free Drinks Healthy For You?

Who does not enjoy a tall glass of milkshake of their favourite fruit, be it the middle of the day or at the end of the day? But have you thought if that glass loaded with sugar, is healthy? While we all know that sugar can be fattening, we often tend to ignore the fact and binge on sweets and dishes made of sugar!
In today’s time, an appealing external appearance has become significant in every walk of life. While men aim for a perfect V shaped physique, women desire for hourglass body contours. In pursuit of such figures, everyone desires to lose their excessive layers of fat. Switching to sugar free drinks seems like the most convenient mode of weight reduction in recent times.
The markets are flooded with products formulated from sugar substitutes. The list includes drinks, jellies, ice creams, candies and yoghurt. The question that looms large on the minds of most consumers is that are these products actually safe for consumption. Let us scrutinise the actual ingredients.

Comprehensive Understanding Of Sugar Substitutes:

Sugar substitutes are products that are devoid of the traditional form of sugar that is sucrose (1). Some of the variants under the umbrella of sugar substitutes are artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners, novel sweeteners and sugar alcohols. The terminology can be extremely confusing and misleading for a layperson. Manufacturers wrongly lure consumers under the false designation of sugar-free. In fact, some sugar substitutes sold as natural are actually processed during the manufacturing stage.
Sugar-free drinks are also referred to as diet or zero calorie drinks. These are versions of carbonated drinks that are devoid of sugar. Instead, they contain artificial sweeteners. Obesity is one of the leading factors behind diabetes (2).  And the potential buyers of sugar-free drinks are patients of diabetes, those involved in vigorous sports activities and, of course, the large proportion of population desirous of weight reduction.
Whether you opt for a sugar-free Red Bull or Diet Coke, it is cardinal to evaluate the safety of the product. Everything comes with its own merits and demerits. In contrast to the conventional sugar laden drinks, these innovative forms of beverages are certainly low in calories. However, the question is that, are they actually healthy to consume.

The Pros:

1. Zero Calories:

The biggest asset of sugar-free drinks is that they are non-nutritive in characteristic. With an almost zero level of calorie content, these beverages form a perfect weight reduction option. In contrast to this, a 12 ounce can of normal sweetened drink or cafe latte has the potential to add 125 calories to your system (3).

2. Aids In Controlling High Sugar Level:

Sugar free drinks are certainly a boon to those suffering from diabetes. The artificial sweeteners utilised in the production of such drinks are devoid of carbohydrates. Therefore, the drink does not elevate the blood sugar levels in the body. This paves way for patients with diabetes to enjoy such beverages without any health risks. However, some foods that are termed “sugar free” may have carbs, that can increase sugar levels (4). Hence, it is important to read the label to know what you are consuming!

The Cons:

1. Repercussions Of Artificial Sweeteners:

There is a dichotomy in viewpoint with regards to the safety of artificial sweeteners. While the U.S. Food and Administration rates these products as safe, studies conducted at the Centre for Science state otherwise. Research highlights that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin and acesulfame potassium could result in potent health disorders. These constituent elements of sugar free drinks are believed to cause headaches, dizzy feeling, issues related to the thyroid. Recent studies also indicate that consumption of artificial sweeteners can be harmful during pregnancy and can lead to premature labour (5).
Aspartame is believed to levy extreme adversities on the nervous system (6). It has been linked to the onset of hallucinations and seizures. In rare cases, its consumption has even been associated with the deadly disease of brain tumour.
On the other hand, sucralose causes the disastrous effects of liver and kidney enlargement. It can even result in reducing the actual size of the thymus glands. This mars the gland’s potential of apt functioning. Some of the other side effects linked with sucralose include onset of rashes, pain in the stomach, loose motions and urinary complications.

2. Adding On Extra Pounds:

The fundamental reason of consumption for most people is weight reduction. Well, those falling in this category will be astonished to know that sugar free drinks could indirectly lead to weight gain. A research conducted on 23,000 US adults showcased the horrifying fact that the obese population amongst them drank more sugar free beverages than those with normal physiques.
An eye opener article was published in the year 2010 in ‘Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine’. As per this piece of research, writing, artificial sweeteners fail to completely trigger the food rewarding channels in the human brain. The results in discontent and unsatisfied appetite (7). Thereby, paving way for hunger pangs and craving for sugar laden foods. This entire mechanism result, in addition of excessive pounds instead of losing them.
Another study puts forth that consumption of diet drinks enhances the BMI that consequently leads to higher tendency of snacking. This means that the high calorie intake due to additional food nullifies the effect of the low calorie intake facilitated by such drinks.

3. Metabolic Disorders:

Metabolic Syndrome is a medical terminology characterised by the presence of hypertension, high level of triglycerides and enhanced fasting sugar levels. In April 2009, the journal ‘Diabetes Care’ conducted a comparative study between those who consumed diet drinks on a daily basis as against those who consumed none. The analysis highlighted that the incidence of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes was 36 and 67 percent, respectively, higher in those who enjoyed drinking diet sodas daily.

4. Adverse Effects On Teeth And Bones:

Consumption of sugar free drinks can sometimes lead to tooth decay (8). Phosphoric acid is responsible for the fizz or the carbonated characteristic of beverages. This specific chemical substance is highly acidic in nature. It enhances the corrosion of tooth enamel and facilitates decay of teeth. Phosphoric acid also showcases adverse implications on human bones. Consumption of sugar free drinks high in phosphoric acid accelerates the removal of calcium from the body via urination. This depletion of calcium is accommodated by the bones rendering calcium to the bloodstream. However, in the process the bones tend to weaken with the passage of time.

5. Concerns Related To Cancer:

One of the worst concerns related to consumption of sugar free drinks comes in the form of cancer. A study conducted in the decade of 1970s, on laboratory rats revealed a direct correlation between consumption of saccharin and onset of cancer in the bladder. (9) At that point of time, saccharin was designated unsafe for health. However, this study has not been authenticated by the National Cancer Institute. There is no scientific evidence confirming this hypothesis. Today, the artificial sweetener once again forms a part of food additives approved for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration. Well, the truth remains that whether authenticated or not, one cannot ignore or risk one’s health with fatal diseases like cancer.
Think Before You Leap Addiction of any kind is undesirable. It could be of alcohol, caffeine or sugar free drinks. Life should never be dependent on any alcoholic or non alcoholic product. Making an endeavour to reduce weight is certainly a positive step. However, keep your health as priority. Do not get lured by mere advertising gimmicks. Be prudent enough to go through the ingredients and if required accumulate knowledge about the same.
Try Other Alternatives if weight reduction is the fundamental cause for switching to sugar free drinks then why not simply exercise. Following a regular routine of exercising comes with a plethora of benefits such as loss of weight, high stamina, release of positive hormones, glowing skin, good digestion and a general feeling of well being. Such assets can take you a long way in building a successful life.
If it’s about just quenching your thirst or drinking something different, explore healthier options.
Some of the alternatives following in the domain of healthy drinks include:

1. Flavoured Water :

This refreshing drink can be prepared easily at home. All you require is to flavour normal water with your choice of fruit or vegetable.

2. Green Tea:

This health drink can be consumed hot or iced. Not only is it devoid of calories, but also comes laden with antioxidants.

3. Lime Tonic:

Combine diet tonic with lime. Spice it up with refreshing mint leaves to produce a delicious concoction.

4. Fresh Juice:

Drinking home made fresh juices from fruits or vegetables paves way for a healthy living. Procuring pre-packaged juice could prove unhealthy owing to high content of sodium.

5. Soy Beverages:

Purchase unsweetened soy beverage with minimal fat content. This drink comes with the added advantage of calcium and vitamin D.

6. Caffeine:

Coffee when consumed without milk and sugar, can be an optimum health beverage. Research proves caffeine intake in limited quantity averts heart ailments, diabetes and cancer. Moreover, it keeps you agile and physically fit.

7. Red Wine:

Many may be surprised to know that the U.S. National Institutes of Health actually suggest the intake of red wine. A quantity of 4 and 8 ounces of red wine for men and women, respectively are recommended in order to minimise the incidence of heart disorders, Alzheimer’s Disease and even the fatal disease of cancer (10).
Sugar free drinks have been under scrutiny for years now. Whether a sugar free drink is healthy or not, still remains uncertain. With an array of healthier options, why risk your health? When it comes to health, nothing is worth the risk.
When it comes to your body, there is no space for compromises or regrets. You have to first be healthy in order to look good. In the blind race to attract public attention with a swell body, do not end up in bed. So, go for that sugar free drink, but remember not to go overboard.

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