There are many options in retail, with sugar-free soft drinks and soft drinks becoming increasingly popular. Because worries about weight go hand in hand with the search for low-calorie products. But are sugar-free soft drinks really better or do they also make you fat?
We want to make it clear from the outset that these drinks should in no way replace water, which is essential for the health of our organism.
Sugar-free soft drinks
The risks of sugar-free soft drinks
Commercially available soft drinks that do not contain sugar are still sweet because they contain calorie-free sweeteners. These include, for example, aspartame, saccharin or cyclamate. Although these do not provide any calories, the sweeteners can promote the absorption of sugar in the intestine.
They also encourage the release of insulin in the same way that sugary soft drinks do. This causes the blood sugar levels to drop, which creates a feeling of hunger.
Sweeteners also impair the intestinal flora, damage the organism’s healthy bacteria and lead to dysbiosis (imbalance of the intestinal flora) and often to glucose intolerance.
How do sugar-free soft drinks affect body weight?
The effects of soft drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners on weight are examined in various studies, because it is a very controversial topic.
The following study was recently published: Sugar and artificially sweetened beverages linked to obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. It shows that there is a link between soft drinks and obesity. However, this study does not differentiate between sugared and sugar-free soft drinks. The results show that commercial soft drinks with sugar and sweeteners alike are consumed more frequently by obese people.
Other studies suggest that sugar-free soft drinks not only increase the risk of obesity, but also increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. However, no clear mechanism is known that could explain why this is the case.
On the other hand, there are studies like this one by Plos One that show a connection between sugar-free soft drinks and more belly fat. Sugar-free soft drinks could therefore be unsuitable for weight loss diets.
Why is there a chance that sugar-free soft drinks will add weight?
The compensation effect
It is possible that the sugar-free soft drinks themselves do not make you fat, but they are linked to other unhealthy lifestyle habits.
You may think that you have some “leeway” because you save calories with the sugar-free soft drinks. Maybe instead you treat yourself to something else that is high in calories, for example a hamburger with french fries together with a light drink.
Sugar-free soft drinks can cause hunger
As mentioned earlier, sugar-free soft drinks can make you hungry.
In some cases, sucralose consumption causes a spike in insulin that is not accompanied by a drop in glucose.
This means that our body reacts to the sugar-free soft drinks in the same way as it does to sweetened soft drinks, even if the body does not absorb any sugar as a result.
Sweet things are addicting
Regardless of whether the sweeteners provide calories or not, they are addicting. Because they mostly activate areas of the brain that are connected to the pleasure and reward center. This leads to an addiction to sweet things and intense feelings. The effects of sweet foods on the brain provoke the same feelings as a drug, so it makes us want more and more sweets.
If you want to lose weight, it makes sense to refrain from sugary refreshment drinks. It is currently believed that sugar-free soft drinks are modestly safe and do not provide any calories.
But science has shown that regular consumption is by no means helpful in weight control. Because this can lead to the fact that we eat more and put on belly fat.
Weight gain is a very complex issue and cannot be attributed to any single food group or product, including sugar. What is certain, however, is that water should be consumed most frequently, both with and outside of meals.
And what if I crave a soft drink every now and then? Should I then prefer a soft drink with or without sugar? If it only happens sporadically, you can opt for the light drink, but only consume it in small quantities to prevent negative effects.