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Exploring Diet Fizzy Drinks: Making Informed Choices

Updated: Jun 6


Two glasses of fizzy drink with ice

Today, I'm exploring a hot topic – the place of diet fizzy drinks in our diets. With the release of the new WHO Guideline on Non-Sugar Sweeteners and the media spotlight shining on Aspartame, I felt it was an opportune time to discuss this subject.


Before we begin, it is important to remember that nutrition isn't one-size-fits-all. It’s about finding what works best for you. So, let's explore this topic with a compassionate and balanced perspective.


Exploring the Fizz


When we talk about fizzy drinks, think of classics like cola, lemonade, and orangeade. Does choosing diet versions make a positive difference? It depends on your health habits and goals.

 

Frequent sugary drinkers: Switching to diet versions can be a helpful stepping stone as you work towards broader dietary changes. Many sugary drinks contain as much as 9 or 10 teaspoons of sugar in a bottle or can. Drinking them frequently causes rapid spikes in blood sugar levels and increased insulin production. Over time, this can lead to issues such as insulin resistance, inflammation, and increased diabetes risk. They're also linked to an increased risk of weight gain, overweight, and obesity. Excess body fat is strongly associated with a higher risk of at least 12 different types of cancers among adults, according to robust scientific evidence. Sugary drinks are also bad for your teeth, and typically lack essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fibre, and protein.

 

Occasional sugary drinkers: Rare consumption has minimal impact. Focus on your everyday choices for your overall well-being.


Navigating Diabetes


For people with diabetes, opting for diet fizzy drinks over sugary ones can help prevent blood sugar spikes.


What about Aspartame?


Aspartame is a widely used artificial sweetener found in many food and beverage products. Recently, it came under scrutiny for potential links to cancer.


Key evaluations:


In July 2023, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) conducted a joint evaluation of aspartames health risks.


The evaluation included both human and animal studies, which revealed limited evidence connecting aspartame to cancer risk in humans. Based on this limited evidence, IARC classified aspartame as 'possibly carcinogenic.'


JECFA assessed the safety of aspartame in everyday amounts and found insufficient evidence linking it to cancer or other diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They concluded that the previous acceptable daily intake should not change.


Acceptable daily intake:


The World Health Organization (WHO) has established an acceptable daily intake of 0-40mg per kg of body weight, which is about 2,800mg for an average-weight man (70kg). This is roughly equivalent to 9-14 cans of Diet Coke per day, assuming no other sources of aspartame are consumed.


Moderation is key:


When deciding if artificial sweeteners are safe for our diet, it is important to consider all the evidence. According to current research and most public health organisations, consuming artificial sweeteners in typical amounts does not increase the risk of cancer. Therefore, it is highly likely that using artificial sweeteners within the recommended limits is safe for humans.


Making Informed Choices


When deciding whether to include diet fizzy drinks in your regular routine, I suggest leaning towards alternatives that offer more benefits, if possible.


Here's why:


  • Sweet cravings: Artificially sweetened drinks are very sweet, which might make you crave sugary flavours more. This could make it harder to cut down on sugar in the long run. More research is needed to fully understand this potential relationship.


  • Gut health: Emerging research  suggests that artificial sweeteners might impact the balance of helpful bacteria in our gut. However, more human studies are needed. Scientists are exploring how our gut bacteria influence health, including fighting diseases, digesting food, and regulating blood sugar. They're also investigating how this knowledge can help people undergoing cancer treatment. While we await more answers, it's wise to prioritise a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, fibre, and plant-based foods instead of focusing solely on sweeteners.


  • Nutritional value: Opting for diet fizzy drinks could mean missing out on beverages with actual nutritional value. While diet drinks are often calorie-free, they typically don't offer any essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants that your body needs for overall health.


  • Bone health: If you're concerned about your bone health, take note of advice from the Royal Osteoporosis Society – excessive cola consumption might not be the best choice for supporting your bones.


Exploring Refreshing Alternatives


Sparkling water with slices of orange and sprigs of thyme

  • Enrich your still or sparkling water with a twist of citrus zest, like lemon, lime, or orange, for a burst of natural flavour.

  • Add a few slices of cucumber to your water for a cool and revitalising sip.

  • Drop a few fresh mint leaves into your water for a refreshing and invigorating touch.

  • Grate or slice some fresh ginger into your water to create a zesty and soothing drink with a hint of warmth.

  • Muddle various berries (like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries) in the bottom of a glass and add still or sparkling water.

  • Infuse water with lemon balm leaves for a gentle citrusy taste and a touch of herbal goodness.

  • Mix sparkling water with a dash of fruit juice to create a bubbly alternative to fizzy pop.

  • Brew a cup of herbal tea, such as green tea, let it cool, and enjoy a refreshing sip. Notably, it's also abundant in cell-protecting antioxidants!

  • Explore naturally flavoured sparkling water brands like DASH Water, Aqua Libra, M&S, and more.


Summing Up on Diet Fizzy Drinks


Making health decisions, especially during cancer treatment, can be tough. The last thing you need is another lengthy checklist of 'must-do's'. It's completely understandable if cutting back on diet fizzy drinks isn't your top priority. Focus on making informed choices that fit your situation and look for healthier options that match your goals. This approach helps you build a sustainable diet that honours the challenges you're facing.


If you or a loved one could benefit from a tailored cancer nutrition plan and support, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Telephone: 020 8064 2865

Appointments: book here




The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered personalised nutrition, dietetic, or medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for personalised advice and guidance regarding your specific medical condition or dietary needs.


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