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The Scoop on Artificially Sweetened Drinks: Are They Really Good for You?

One of my clients is currently on a weight loss journey and in our coaching session last week, she shared with me that she has replaced her habit of drinking 2-3 full sugar soft drinks a day with sugar free soft drinks (containing artificial sweeteners) instead. While this is great progress for her, this raises the question: are artificially sweetened drinks a good choice in the long run?

It's no secret that artificially sweetened drinks have been hailed as the champions for those trying to cut down on their sugar intake. Most of us are aware that excessive sugar consumption can lead to a whole host of health issues, from dental issues such as increased risk of decay to more serious concerns like diabetes and obesity. So, in that sense, artificially sweetened drinks seem like the obvious alternative.

One big plus is that artificially sweetened drinks are better than their sugar-laden counterparts when it comes to keeping those sugar demons at bay. They can help you slash your sugar intake without sacrificing the sweetness you crave. Plus, they’re often hailed as the go-to choice for people looking to shed a few kilograms without saying farewell to their favourite fizzy drinks.

However, while artificially sweetened drinks may be lower in calories and less likely to rot your teeth, the sweeteners can wreak havoc on your gut biome. While you might think you’re doing your gut a favour by skipping the sugar, those sneaky sweeteners can throw your gut flora out of whack, leading to all sorts of digestive troubles.

And here’s another kicker: artificially sweetened drinks can trick your taste buds into expecting sweetness without actually delivering the goods. So, while you might think you’re satisfying your sweet tooth, you could actually be setting yourself up for a never-ending cycle of cravings and disappointment. Studies have also shown that people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less intensely sweet foods, such as fruit, less appealing and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, unpalatable. Several observational studies have also found that using artificial sweeteners and drinking high amounts of diet soft drinks is associated with an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome. 

So, what’s the answer?

If you are consuming a lot of sugary drinks, switching to artificially sweetened options may be a good alternative. However you also need to consider the potential negative impacts they could have on you.  So, in the short term, artificially sweetened drinks can be a good option.

But if you are looking to optimise your health for the long term, consider switching to plain sparkling water that you can jazz up with a splash of fresh fruit juice, which will keep you hydrated and happy without the unwanted side effects. And enjoy the occasional full sugar or artificially sweetened drink from time to time and savour it and enjoy it.

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