In a new American Heart Association scientific statement, researchers suggest regular and long-term drinking of diet beverages, particularly in children, are quite harmful.
They urge people to replace sugary and diet drinks with plain, carbonated or unsweetened flavored water.
Poor lifestyle behaviors are the leading causes of preventable diseases globally.
Added sugars contribute to a diet that is energy dense but nutrient poor.
The sugar can increase the risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity-related cancers, and dental caries.
In the statement, the researchers reviewed and graded the current scientific evidence for studies examining the cardiovascular health effects of added sugars on children.
The available studies were divided into 5 broad subareas: effects on blood pressure, lipids, insulin resistance, and diabetes mellitus, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and obesity.
The team found links between added sugars and increased cardiovascular disease risk factors among US children.
The links are present at levels far below current consumption levels.
In addition, there is strong evidence supports the link of added sugars with increased cardiovascular disease risk in children.
The team found that it is reasonable to recommend that children consume ≤25 g of added sugars per day and to avoid added sugars for children <2 years of age.
Although added sugars most likely can be safely consumed in low amounts as part of a healthy diet, few children achieve such levels, and this makes it an important public health target.
The group acknowledges the reality that many people might use diet drinks to wean off sugar-loaded drinks if they feel they can’t make the wholesale leap to water.
The researchers suggest that this approach may be helpful for people who are habituated to a sweet-tasting beverage and for whom water, at least initially, is not a desirable option.
The writing group’s chair is Rachel K. Johnson, a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Vermont.
The statement is published in the journal Circulation.
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