This is a question I’m asked all the time, by people with and without diabetes. Recently, a study was done to try to figure out the answer for the average person who does not have diabetes. Researchers used two very long-running trials that followed a combined total of about 115,000 people. Study participants were asked detailed questions about their eating habits numerous times over a period of years, and they were also followed for years afterward. Researchers determined that two or more sugary beverages consumed in a day increased a person’s risk of death by heart disease. They also found that the more sugary beverages people drank, the higher the risk of death by heart disease.
Do sugary drinks cause health problems?
Does this mean that sugary beverages cause heart disease? Not exactly. People who drink sugary beverages are more likely to have other not-so-healthy habits, like smoking or choosing not to exercise. Just because sugary drinks are associated with heart disease doesn’t mean that sugary drinks cause heart disease. So, what then? We know for sure that there’s nothing good for us in sugary drinks, so there’s no good reason to drink them. (I know what some of you are thinking, “except for the taste!”) We also know that they may be a cause of heart disease. So it makes perfect sense to me that we want to avoid drinking sugary beverages.
What about artificial sweeteners?
Some people worry that artificial sweeteners are going to cause them problems down the road. At this time, we don’t have any evidence to say that artificially sweetened drinks are associated with poor outcomes like heart disease or cancer. So, we can only make the best choice that we can make today. For me, as a person without diabetes, that comes down to drinking my tea completely unsweetened and my coffee chock full of stevia. Let’s face it, I’m addicted to my morning caffeine, but I really don’t like the taste of black coffee. I choose stevia because it is found in nature. Sucralose, aspartame, & sachharrine are man-made. That doesn’t make them necessarily bad, but it does make me choose stevia instead.
What should you choose if you have diabetes?
If you have diabetes, we know that sugary beverages are going to raise your blood sugar right away. The only time we want to see a spike in your blood sugar is if you are experiencing a low. So, the only time that’s a good time to have a sugary drink is when you’re trying to treat a low blood sugar. Even then, the recommended amount is 4 ounces. (Then wait twenty minutes…If you don’t remember the rest, we need to have a chat!)
Since routine consumption of regular sugar is out, people with diabetes who want a sweet-tasting beverage should definitely go with the artificially sweetened version. I’m not endorsing the idea of drinking diet soda all day long…I’m just saying that the diet soda is the lesser of two evils if you are a person with diabetes, and everyone needs some “pleasure foods” in their life. So, having said all of that, it’s time for my coffee break…and I’m going to put some stevia in it!