“These results challenge the utility of diet or low-calorie sweetened beverages when it comes to cutting calories and weight management,” said Allison Sylvetsky, an assistant professor at GW and lead author for the study.
One in three children in the U.S. is obese, according to data from the American Heart Association. This poses many potential health problems for them in the future. Obesity has been linked with cardiovascular diseases and even cancers, such as colon, liver, and kidney cancer.
In an earlier study, Sylvetsky and her team found that children and teens frequently ingest low-calorie sweeteners. These are found in diet sodas, low-calorie juice, sports drinks, and even foods and snacks. In particular, the report revealed a 200-percent increase in the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners from 1999 to 2012.
For this study, the researchers wanted to know how these low-calorie items affect total energy intake, and if they truly help in managing weight. The team collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which ran from 2011 until 2016. They looked at dietary recall data from over 7,000 children who reported what they ate and drank during a 24-hour period. In particular, the team focused on regular and low-calorie sweetened beverage consumption.
Their findings revealed that the amounts of calorie intake among those who drank sweetened beverages – both low-calorie and regular – were still significantly higher compared to children who only took water. There was a 200-calorie difference between those who drank only water and those who drank sweetened beverages. The study also pointed out that there was no difference in terms of calorie intake between the two kinds of sweetened beverages.
While the team didn't directly link low or zero-calorie drinks and weight gain, they posited that their findings suggest a connection between sweetened drinks and higher calorie and sugar intake.
“Our findings suggest that water should be recommended as the best choice for kids and teens,” Sylvetsky added. (Related: Sweetened beverages linked to genetically increased risk of obesity.)
Indeed, water takes the top spot when it comes to healthy beverages. But people just can't help but look for some taste in their drinks. Here are fresh and natural alternatives to quell your sugary cravings.
A healthy alternative to commercially flavored water is to make some at home. Slice some fruits and vegetables – like oranges, lemons, or cucumbers – and place them in a pitcher of cold water.
Tea is a staple across many cultures around the world. Some popular kinds include green tea and jasmine tea. Different teas have different tastes, and they are available in almost every store. You can also grow plants at home and make them into tea.
If you crave the fizz in soda, opt for sparkling water instead. Add a few slices of fruit like lemons or oranges and a small amount of natural sweetener like stevia.
For more studies on food research and healthy alternatives, read FoodScience.news.