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Low sugar drinks: How safe are they?

By Eseoghene Laba
27 November 2016   |   5:28 am
Low sugar drinks are supposedly low calorie, artificially sweetened drinks, and are available in different flavours. Some people consider these drinks as good alternatives ...


Low sugar drinks are supposedly low calorie, artificially sweetened drinks, and are available in different flavours. Some people consider these drinks as good alternatives to the regular sugary drinks. In some cases, people patronise these drinks to avoid such health conditions as diabetes. But how true is this and how safe are these drinks.

In some quarters, these drinks are believed to be unsafe, as they are said to contain such artificial sweeteners as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium and saccharin, which tend to confuse metabolism, thereby leading to over eating. Effectively, this negates the purpose of taking these drinks, as the individual ends up gaining the weight he/she was trying to avoid in the first place.

Analysing the drinks and the health consequences, Mrs. Helen Uwaka, a food technologist, explained that they are unsafe because of the contents.

She said: “Because they contain harmful artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium and saccharin, among others, people conscious of their health should refrain from taking these drinks.

“Aspartame has been used in the U. S. since the early 1980s. It is one of the most common artificial sweeteners used today, and sold under popular brand names. It is used in many foods and beverages because it is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. So, much less of it can be used to give the same level of sweetness. This, in turn lowers the calories in the food or beverage.

“However, there is an established link between aspartame and a multitude of ailments, including cancer, seizures, headaches, depression, attention deficit disorder, dizziness, weight gain, birth defects, lupus, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

“According to the National Cancer Institute, laboratory rats that were given saccharin had higher rates of bladder cancer. Aspartame was linked to lymphoma and leukemia in rats at very high doses (eight to 2,083 cans of diet soda daily). Although aspartame and other sweeteners, including acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and neotame, are still considered safe for humans to consume, but it is not worth the risk to your health.”

She explained that saccharin, despite being calorie-free might stimulate insulin release. Therefore, it is not suitable for diabetics.

“A study from Purdue University’s Ingestive Behaviour Research Centre showed that rats given “no calorie” sweetener ate more, thereby, gaining more weight and body fat than rats that ate regular table sugar. The psychologists in the study reasoned that the artificial sweetener tricked the rats’ brains into thinking they would be consuming more calories, and when the calories didn’t come, their metabolisms got shaken up and had trouble regulating appetite. This made them want to eat more. The study concluded that eating artificially sweetened foods would eventually lead to greater weight gain than eating foods sweetened with regular sugar,” she said.

Most nutritionists would advise individuals to stay away from all drinks, except for natural fruit juice extract and water to avoid weight gain or any health issues.

“This is because these things always have an effect one way or the other,” said Peace Ugbajah, who claimed she has been taking only water for five years now and has no regret. “I don’t think these drinks are worth taking at all, and if it is not natural sweetness, then forget it. These drinks mess up one’s system and skin. I would advise seriously reducing these drinks, if one cannot do without them. There is a better choice in using natural sweeteners.

“Reducing sugar consumption supports optimal health, but only if it is not replaced with toxic artificial sweeteners made in laboratories. So, I would recommend replacing refined sugar with naturally sweet, stevia, slimming super foods, such as berries, dates, tiger nuts, coconut nectar, and small amounts of raw honey.

“Artificial sweeteners worsen, rather than prevent metabolic disorders, which lead to over-eating. It is not just that consuming artificial sweeteners jeopardise weight loss, but it also confuses the body and wreaks havoc on the hormones. In response to the psychological anticipation of eating and the aroma of food, the body prepares the digestive tract for the arrival of nutrients. Just the smell of food triggers a cascade of hormonal and metabolic responses. So, when you feed your body non-nutritive, non-caloric sweeteners, it becomes confused and your metabolism is negatively affected. In most cases, your body doesn’t initiate the response it was designed to have, when you consume an artificial sweetener. For this reason, studies have linked artificial sweeteners to obesity.”