New Facts About Sugar Substitutes You Need to Know!

New Facts About Sugar Substitutes You Need to Know

Some good research this year has brought us to the point where you may want to look again at your use of Sugar Substitutes. One such study has to do with drinking sugar-free soda versus regular soda and what it means for your health. The second study addresses drinking diet soda and how it affects your chances of losing weight or gaining weight. Let’s take a look!

Sugar Substitutes Study & Research #1:

It has been a feeling for years that we should eliminate regular soda with concentrated sugars because of the overwhelming amounts of evidence that sugar will affect our health. So, what are we talking about now?

The Study:

The American Heart Association’s journal, Stroke, has found that the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks are showing a link to a greater risk of stroke and dementia. This April 2017 study followed 2888 adults older than 45 years of age and 1484 adults older than 60. Researchers asked participants about their eating and drinking habits at three separate times throughout a seven year period. Then over the next ten years, they followed these individuals checking for signs of
stroke or dementia.

The Results:

So, in the end, researchers found that those that drank 1-3 or more artificially sweetened drinks per day were nearly three times more likely to develop the above-mentioned health problems compared to those who drank less than one a week. As dismal as this may seem, researchers tried hard to keep findings on an even plane, even adjusting for factors such as age, gender, calorie intake, diet quality, physical activity, and the presence of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Boston University School of Medicine, researcher Matthew Pase, acknowledges that the findings show only a correlation and not a causation. “This is yet another piece of evidence that diet drinks are just not a healthier alternative to sugared drinks as people think.” They suggested drinking water on a regular basis, as well as, fruit flavored drinks and tea.

Sugar Substitutes Study & Research #2:

If you have been using artificial sweeteners to try to lose weight, reports connecting them to weight gain might have you wondering whether they are helping or hurting?!

The Study:

Studies have taken a look at the consumption of certain sugar substitutes such as Equal Nutrasweet (aspartame), sucralose (Splenda), and saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low and Sugar Twin). One study looked at the consumption habits of 3700 people who drank diet sodas for seven to eight years had a double risk of becoming overweight compared to non-diet drinkers. Others researchers feel that these sweeteners can help with weight loss and evidence backs them up.

The Results:

The overwhelming summary by the majority of the research indicates that too much of a conclusion has been placed on the possible link to sweeteners and weight gain. This comes from Adrienne Youdim, MD, at Cedar Sinai Medical Center and RDN, Beth Kitchin, PhD, University of Alabama. That the information was recorded as “observational” as they record food intake, their habits, and they make connections to a particular outcome, such as weight gain. The summary here is that “it is hard to make conclusions of this type without looking at other
factors such as genes, food intake overall, and physical activity. It is impossible to determine cause and effect”.


  • Too much of anything, including Sugar Substitutes and diet beverages, as well as, regular sodas may be the problem. Learning balance in the food intake habits we have will take some thought on what is best for our bodies.
  • As artificial beverages are added to many individual’s diets on a regular basis, it will be very difficult to ever figure out the exact impact it has on our own diets.
  • It is doubtful that diet soda or regular soda for that matter, actually leads us to the consumption of high calories foods, thus weight gain. But, at the same time, there are foods which do tend to “go together” as seen on many menus in restaurants; as pizza and soda or cheeseburgers and soda. This would be a more reasonable habit based thought than anything else.
  • Taking care to eat in a reasonable fashion, using the research as a backup, will help us in our choices of perhaps less soda with sugar or Sugar Substitutes, as well as, water, tea, fruit flavored beverages, may be an answer we can all adapt to. This way, we still feel that we are in charge of what we are doing and the reasons behind it.

According to Kitchin, RDN, “losing weight is very hard, and taking away the diet soda and its enjoyment is not going to make it any easier. There’s a pleasure aspect to our food, and we don’t believe we need to be taking anything away at this point.”

Rita Larsen Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor

Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.

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