(Photo : Reuters)
Question: When is a diet drink not a diet drink? Answer: When it's a diet soda.
That, at least, is one of the conclusions of a new study by researchers at Purdue University, who say they've found evidence diet sodas not only are not the end-all beverage for those seeking to lose weight, but may in fact be linked to a number of health problems, notably obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
As part of the new research, Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences and a behavioral neuroscientist at Purdue, reviewed several recent studies looking at whether drinking diet soft drinks over extended time increases the likelihood that a person will overeat, gain weight and perhaps develop other health problems.
One study in particular determined people who drank artificially sweetened soda were more likely to experience weight gain than those who consumed non-diet soda.
Other studies showed that, compared to non-diet soda drinkers, people who consumed diet soda had twice the potential of developing metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to cardiovascular disease.
The studies in question included examinations of drinks containing aspartame, sucralose and saccharin - which an estimated 30 percent of all American adults consume regularly.
That said, at least some of the studies suggested diet soda may be just as bad for our health as non-diet.
"The take-home message is for people to be much mindful of how much sweetener, whether artificial or sugar, they're actually consuming," Swithers said in a report by USA Today, whose research amounts to a retrospective analysis of previous findings to settle on an overarching conclusion.
The trade group for the non-alcoholic drinks industry, the American Beverage Association, responded to the research findings with its own assertion that Swithers' work was "an opinion" and "not piece not a scientific study."
"Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today," the organization said in an emailed statement. "They are a safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe."
Well, OK, but if consumers nonetheless want to take a queue from the new Purdue study and leave diet sodas behind, are there really any viable, refreshing beverage alternatives?
There are an array of health-related websites that promote a wide selection of drinks they say are just as refreshing and fulfilling a diet sodas.
The site Fitday.com suggests meeting the craving for diet sodas with flavored water, light tonic water with a lemon or lime spritz, or green tea.
Another site, Skinnyms.com, proposes a much longer list of diet soda substitutes, including the following two ideas:
Strawberry Lemonade, which requires the following ingredients:
- 2 cups fresh strawberries
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 5 lemons
- 1/2 cup mild honey
- Chilled Water (we used distilled)
- 1 extra lemon, thinly sliced
Strawberry Lemonade preparations start with slicing off the tops of the strawberries and discarding them. Combine strawberries, honey and lemon juice in a blender and pulse until strawberries are liquid. If desired strain juice through a sieve in order to remove most of the pulp.
Pour juice into a 1/2 gallon pitcher, add slices of lemon, and fill with chilled water, though it's not recommended to overfill the pitcher with water.
Pour the strawberry lemonade over ice and enjoy.
Orange Sports Drink, which requires the following ingredients:
- 1 quart of water (suggested distilled water)
- 2 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 pint orange juice
- Juice from 1 lemon
Heat 1/2 cup of the water to boiling, remove from heat, add honey and sea salt and then stir until dissolved.
Pour remaining water into a pitcher, add the honey water, orange and lemon juice, then stir to combine.
Refrigerate until ready to drink, then enjoy and rejuvenate.