Low calorie soft drinks help people to eat more healthily

Low calorie soft drinks help people to eat more healthily
Sigrid Gibson

March 7, 2016: It is sometimes claimed that when people choose low calorie soft drinks, they think that this gives them permission to increase their calorie intake from the rest of their diet. But new evidence shows that people are much more sensible than this claim suggests.

In a paper published in Nutrients, a team of researchers led by Sigrid Gibson reports that careful analysis of UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey data shows that those who choose low calorie soft drinks have overall a better quality diet than those who choose sugar-sweetened beverages.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey takes great care to ensure that its sample is representative of the population as a whole, and that the data accurately reflect what people really eat and drink. The further analysis by Sigrid Gibson and her colleagues is based on detailed dietary records of 1,600 adults over 4 days. The researchers were able to look at differences in intake in the same people, as well as between individuals.

Interestingly, people who are users of low calorie soft drinks are very like those who choose sugar-sweetened products. While there are some minor differences, both groups are remarkably similar in terms of age, gender and socio-economics. The big differences are in what they eat. People who choose low calorie beverages consume no more calories than those who do not drink soft drinks at all, and on average 241 Calories fewer than those who choose sugar-sweetened soft drinks. They also eat less fat and more protein.

Sigrid Gibson said, "One of the strengths of this study is the robust consumption data that we have from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. We are not relying on purchase statistics or just on people's memories. It is important to know that when people choose a low calorie soft drink instead of the full calorie alternative, the quality of their overall diet appears to benefit."